jan shirley french translator and childrens author

French Translations and Children's Fiction
by Jan Shirley

A Note from the Family of Janet Barlow (Jan Shirley) 1928-2017

In October 2017 we lost our wonderful mother, Janet Barlow, also known by her maiden name Jan Shirley in connection with her translation and literary activities. This is her website which she used to promote her work. We have decided to keep the site live as a tribute to her and to continue promoting her books. We hope that visitors to the site will find her work interesting and will be inspired by her writing. To assist anyone wishing to enquire about her work we have retained the email address listed on the contact page. Enquiries sent to this address will be answered. Thank you.


harry bone thiefBorn in Nottinghamshire, raised and educated there and in Kent and Cornwall, first at the King's School, Canterbury, later at Oxford university and then Edinburgh. Married, three sons. Did some teaching of French and of English to foreign language speakers, and started translating. Mostly did historical source material, also children’s books and other general work. Lived for many years in Cumbria, enjoying walking, reading, writing, friends, family and several Border Terriers. Now buried in the churchyard of St Oswald's, Ravenstonedale, next to her husband Dick.

Janet Shirley M.A.Oxon.

Translator of medieval and modern French.

Member of the Translators' Association and of the Society of Authors.

e: janshirley@french-translator.co.uk


Dauntless the slughorn...


daurel and betonI hope you find this site interesting. I've put it together so that you can see what sort of translating work I like doing, and if any of you can come up with interesting suggestions - or commissions! - for further work along the same sort of lines, so much the better.

The originals of almost all the books referred to here were written at different times from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries and I have translated them as carefully as I can. They do not, repeat not, tell us what did actually happen at any given date, but they do tell us how those people saw themselves and their world, how they thought it was, how they wanted it to be.

Truth, said Terry Pratchett, is the soap you can't get hold of in the bathwater of history. Add the scrubbing brush of translation and there's nothing much left but bubbles. Still, I really have tried. Check out some of the excerpts and see what you think.

My other interest is in writing fiction for children aged eight and upwards. Look at Children’s Fiction for more about this.

Recent Work

Lucy Dragonfly by Jan ShirleyThe next Harry story, LUCY DRAGONFLY, is now available in paperback and on Kindle. Lucy and Harry do a good deal of travelling, at sea and on foot, and there are some nice maps. A third Lucy and Harry story is now drafted, working title Lucy Innocent, and is away being looked at by a publisher. It is set like the others in Tudor Canterbury, time has passed and Henry VIII, thank goodness, is dead. But life is never simple, and Canterbury finds itself flooded with foreign supporters of Luther and Calvin. They have come from France where there is a new king who stands by the pope and burns men and women who do not agree with him.

Recently I have been working on a translation of the Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d'Angleterre, written soon after 1220 by a Flemish author whose name we do not know, the Anonymous of Béthune. He covers events from the first Norse invaders of Normandy down to his own time, King John, Magna Carta, and the French invasion of England in 1217, and does so brilliantly. He has a matter of fact straightforward style, and includes a good deal of dialogue, so that readers feel they know how King John and his queen spoke to each other when they were annoyed. The Anonymous did not like John (who did? he rode away from battle without telling his troops he was going), but does try to do him justice; he was generous to his household and gave them lavish gifts on feast days. My translation is not available yet but Routledge will be bringing it out next year.