Life in the court of Matane by Eric Dupont

QCFINF16 - CoverLivreMatane_RVB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life in the court of Matane by Eric Dupont

Canadian Quebec Fiction

Original title –Bestiaire

Translator – Peter McCambridge

Source – Review copy

I have found that many of my favourite books have come from the Quebec based publisher QC that are translating the best of that regions literature. Peter said to me in a tweet this was the book that made him want to become a translator and thus start QC books. Eric Dupont is considered one of the leading lights in the New Quebec lit movement. He has been called an essential to read of this movement of writers. His books have been longlist for a number of prizes.

July 1976. Monteral. The 21sr Olympic games. A tiny Romanian gymnast stands on a mat and waves to the crowd. For thirty seconds, she swings back and forth between twp wooden bars, defying the laws of gravity.Her landing is perfect.She even manages a smile, and gambols away from the blue mat as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, With the whole world looking on, she gets a perfect score. Ten . Nadia comaneci, the child who had been getting by on a egg a day, had just revealed to Quebec’s metropolis the possiablties in weightlessness, Of this impressive demonstration of grace, courage, and agility, history would remember her smile most of all.

And behind the smile is like Erics a sad life hidden behind beauty.

I am so pleased Peter sent me this book. I was like Eric the narrator of this book a child of a family that split up.This is now fairly come. But in the early eighties wasn’t so. When my parents split up it wasn’t so much so as the narrator of this book shows it is hard on us kids of broken families. This book had so many echoes with my own life. I wasn’t like Eric enthralled by the Nadia Comaneci Gold medal performance. For me, a similar memory would be the first space shuttle launch in 1981 the first holiday with my dad after their divorce. Which is similar to Eric’s he is a couple of years older than me. The story unfolds chapter by chapter using an animal the young narrator meets along the way.This echoes the French title which is Bestiary.  Which is, of course, an ancient medieval way of using animals to tell moral tales to the readers. We have also seen in modern times writer like Borges use the form as well. It also shows the choice of the beasts. As a growing strength in the narrator Eric as he faces his life. As he says every birthday we had a new address and place as he tries to live up to his police father, schoolyard bullying a dream life in Russia. Also the sheer fact of growing up in the ever-changing and fast-moving world of the late seventies and early eighties.

A few hours after sputinik 2’s launch, the soviets announced what they had knwon from the beginning. Lakia wouldn’t be coming back to earth. Sputnik 2 wasn’t deisgined for return flight. All the scientists knew this. even Oleg Gazenko. The dog was to die , poisoned  after ten days  Years later, scientists mo longer moving within Russia’s orbit revealed the horryfinh deatails: Laika had probably survived nom more than a few hours abard sputnik2 .

As I said the shuttle launch in1981 is a memory from my life like this was to many at the time.

It’s fair to say, I connected with this book as it has so many comparisons with my own life. Isn’t this what the best of writers try to do at times,  they draw us into their world.We as readers draw our own experiences and this book did that in spades. We all grow up and this is what makes  Bildungsroman is a classic form of novel and one that we have all rea But this book uses a number of clever framing devices the animals and the feeling of each animal giving him a little hope. Then using  Nadia performance as a metaphor for the gymnastic all us kids of split families.Would have to be. Like the best of this fiction.As it takes the tough side of childhood. Books like Black swan green  or even Kestrel for a knave another book that echo the human and animal themes as we saw how one animal lifted Billy Caspers life her we see how a flurry of animals ending with the wisest of them A great horned Owl, Owls have long symbolized knowledge but also a letting go of the knowledge of the past such as the quote of Hegel

 

Philosophy, as the thought of the world, does not appear until reality has completed its formative process, and made itself ready. History thus corroborates the teaching of the conception that only in the maturity of reality does the ideal appear as counterpart to the real, apprehends the real world in its substance, and shapes it into an intellectual kingdom. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.

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Mister Blue by Jacques Poulin

Mister Blue by Jacques Poulin

Quebec fiction

Original title –  le Vieux Chagrin

Translator – Shelia Fischman

Source – Personal copy

Well, I have read a number of books recently but this one has jumped straight to the top I read it in one sitting on Friday. Jacques Poulin is considered one of the best writers of his generation of French Canadian writers, he has won numerous writing prizes during his career and has published fourteen books. I have to say I love the cat on the cover of this book from Archipelago books.

Dear Marika,

Welcome, Old Mr blue and I hope your visit here will be a pleasent one, as much as out inhospitable shores allow. Try not to let the cold and the damp bother you much. Walk on the beach and the sandbar as much as you want: that’s an excellent way to shake off your worries, as I’ve often discovered myself.

I have lived alon for a long time and solitude is propitous for my work, but it warns my heart to know that you’re at the other end of  the bay. Now that you’re there, everything seems possible, even the wildest, most secret dreams, the ones we never talk about, those that lurk beneath the surface of ourselves, I cannot help thinking that your presence is kind of invitation to begin everything again, to start from scratch.

Thought I don’t yet know your face, you already live in my heart.

Jim writes a note to the unkown woman owner of the book his one human connection.

This is a tale of a writer, Jim he is trying to write a great love story. this is hard for a man that lives by himself in an isolated part of Quebec in his cottage. Jim has withdrawn from life, he was a professor teaching Hemingway to his students, but something we never told what made him end up trying to write about love. He admits he has never been in love and to add to this he finds some footprints on the beach near the house and follows them into a cave and in this cave on a rock shelf above the tideline he finds a copy of 1001 Arabian nights, the book has a name on it Marika.He then starts writing notes to this imaginary woman. Then we find out there is a refuge for woman near by and a spirit soul of a woman Jim calls La Petite appears at the house and talks with Jim at times, this is where we find out about Jim’s past. The only real thing we meet is his Cat Mister Blue and he is maybe the one thing that Jim really loves, as we see when he panics when the cat disappears and Jim Panics.

I waited all week for Marika to come and visit. But in vain. Ten times a day I leaned out of the attic window , hoping to see the women I’d invited,  the womanwho was creating such a strange turmoil in me, on whom I was counting to bring my story back to life.

When she doesn’t come he starts to panic, is she real or just a fragment of jims past that has reappeared!

This is a gentle book about solitude Jim imagines so much it is hard to see what apart from Mister Blue is real in his world at times the Writer’s Block as he is trying to write a love story. Love is there in this world imagined love the notes to this woman Marika are playful and flirty, La petite a parental love in a way and Mister Blue the love we have for our pets. A view of a man that obviously has a secret in his past but like his hero, hemingway Jim is a man’s man so he doesn’t dwell on it but the sense is of a forgotten past at times. A book for lovers of subtle stories of being alone and the tricks it can play on one’s mind.

Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

Quebec fiction

Original title – Les corps extraterrestres

Translators – Arielle Aaronson and Madeleine Stratford

Source – review copy

The small Quebec based press QC fiction are translating some wonderful Lit from the french speaking part of Canada. The first book I reviewed Brothers by David Clerson was one of my favourite books from last year so when then latest book looking for Jupiter arrived I was excited .Pierre-Luc landry is a professor of French studies and found the journal La Chachoir de flaubert a spittoon of ideas ! and won the Ottawa book prize for french fiction with this novel .

I sat down in front of the TV to watch a documentary on Jupiter’s red spot , a massive  anti cyclone that was first seen almost two hundreds years ago and still looks the same today. The scientists who were interviewed compared it to a never-ending hurricane with winds raging at over 550 kilometers per hour. The more they study the phenomenon , they said the less they understand it

Man is this just the best summary of the book , a twirling circle , jupiter a recurring Motif and also a TV show.

This is a tale that takes place in the real and dream world and with two characters Xavier a rep working for a pharmaceutical company , sell a drug that he isn’t very sure works . But in his dreams he lives in a different world he joins and connects with Hollywood a man living what seems a dead-end life as a grave-digger  ( a job Dave Vanian of the damned had and also Joe Strummer ) , Hollywood is a student in fact in many ways embodies the classic Slacker role and in a way Xavier is maybe the classic Yuppie but as the novel unfold we see that The Slacker life of Hollywood as Xavier falls ill and lose his position  and starts on a path to becoming each other and live in a world where their lives are numbed by Music TV shows and films.As the weather has freaky nature during the book.

After the sandman

They remain standing for some time before the hole in the window, watching the meteor shower. They say nothing. They both believe that, at this rate, the sky will eventually burn out. Then hollywood shouts:

“It’s cold in here”

“But it isn’t snowing.It’s stopped ”

I loved these short passages this one is so Borges like I felt !

This is a classic piece of what I would call Gen x lit mixed with a work of magic realism .I was reminded so much the films I grew up with where the slacker characters  turned into the anti hero Ethan Hawke in reality bites was similar to  Hollywood. In the way he is like with his friends a the way Hawkes character was über cool  like and  on the other hand Xavier is rather  like Ben stiller characters an up and coming yuppie but unlike stiller Xavier has a soul , but also with a tinge of the Campbell Scott’s character in the film singles who ends up as a slacker when he seems his dream and office career fall apart. Then there is the master of Gen x fiction the man who started the genre Douglas Coupand this is a tale pf young people caught up in their own worlds as they collide. This is a trip into a world that may not be real as it is warm in the cold part of Canada and snowing in Europe you feel as thou the two characters need to meet to change the world back and make it run as normal. There is also a chink Of Borges for me the character circling a labyrinth of the dreams and the reflective nature of the two worlds they live in are all motifs that Borges used in his stories .

Brothers by David Clerson

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brothers by David Clerson

Canadian (Quebec ) fiction

Original title – Freres

Translator – Katia Grubisic

Source – review copy

When I got an email from the small Canadian based press QC fiction , I was happy having seen a couple of reviews of their books they were a publisher I wanted to try to also the news that my great Aussie mate Tony was having his first translation published by them. David Clerson won a prize for his first novel this book and was praised for his mythical prose as a genuine literary revelation.His second book crawling (english title, original title  en rampant ) came out late last year which is great news as you see this is one of those books i just want to shout about.

She had told him that his brother had been shaped from the severed limb, and born with two stumpy arms , imperfect but attached to a body that was intact, the body of his brother, with whom he loved to run along the shore and in the hills, and who like him had deep, dark eyes, the same eyes they both shared, the same look of brother

That same day and the days that followed, his mother told him, she had repeated time-worn gestures, rituals from the dawn of the world, taking care of her little boys, tending to the wound of the older brother and watching the other one grow, and she soon brought them to her breast, like twins born of the same flesh

The Older brother told the story of his younger brother or his arms.

Brothers is a story of two brothers the older has an arm missing the younger was formed by his mother from that missing arm of the older brother by the mother so the older brother would always have someone to be with and to look after. They live on a slat marsh a sort of place that has an area of mystery. They decide to set out on a quest to find the father along the way they meet kids from the next village that make a living collecting leeches ,hence they are called the leeches boys by the brothers on their hunt for the dog of a father ! Then they find a puppet whom becomes a member of the family and they also along the way adopt so pig kids to take home to their half mad mother who makes a living growing goats and looking after the small garden in the end the boys take a boat to get to the place beyond the water.

The sailboat was small and light, made of wood, and it glided on the ocean, attended by graceful seagulls and a few cormorants. This craft was much easier to handle than the brothers rowboat.This time, the older brother headed straight out to the open sea, pushed by fair , warm summer winds.

He had secured Puppets head to the bow o, leaving his figurehead clad in the grey pelt. Often the wind would fill the pelt moving the body and limbs. It seemed to dance at the bow, and it made the older brother smile, a fleeting happiness

In the myth Odysseus is given his Pelt (cloth ) by a goddess ! here is an old pelt and a puppet

This is one of those books that needs to be read to be absorbed. I don’t know a lot about Quebecian culture but I was remind that a surreal in parts this is it is also a way of looking at a world as mythical, like the Canadian filmmaker  Guy Maddin  does in his films I was remind of the sight of the frozen horse he describes in My winnepeg  and we see in the film something that happens but seems surreal and looks surreal , this is the world Clerson has conjured here . The same Mythical feel can be said here of marshlands by their sheer nature breed a surreal nature even Dickens in great expectations has this feel as the young pip describes the marshlands when he finds Magwitch on the marsh.or the woman in Black another marsh land set adventure the sheer barren and changeable nature of the environment makes it a place of fantasy add to this a tale of a brother and the arm brother , Is the younger brother real or maybe like the character in fight club that Edward Norton character creates to forfuil his life .Then we have a nod to classic greek literature this has nod the odyssey not least in the fact that when he returned home it was Argos his dog that knew who he was when he was dressed as the beggar maybe the father is Argos ? or maybe their father is a myth ? A short novella that leads you thinking afterwards and one that I’m sure all my fellow translation fans will seek out.A new voice and the first novel from Quebec on the blog .

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