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 Jim has withdrawn from life, he was a professor teaching Hemingway to his students, but something we never told what made him end up trying to write about love.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.

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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 .

Looking forward 2017 Arab and Quebec book and a White read along

Well I am pleased to see the back off 2017. I spent last few months slowly blogging just think about the turn of the new year being a new start for the blog. I have recieved some great books this last few weeks of 2016. So the start of the year will see one real Gem a Quebec novella The brothers .A truely surreal book.

 

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Then I have started on the first few books from the new press from AUC Hoopoe press  . I have read one book already Otared by Mohammad Rabie a book shortlist for the Arabic book prize.They also have some great books coming as well as these other arabic gems on Arablits post of what is coming this next year.

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THen In March I join Messy Tony , Grant and Kimbfo in a read along of the great Novel Voss by Patrick white He is the only Aussie writer so far to win the Nobel prize . This is described by the Guardian as .  A love story set against the disappearance of an explorer in the outback, Voss paved the way for a generation of Australian writers to shrug off the colonial past when it was no 77 in there 100 best novels . So join us from March the first and talk about the book ?

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I will be doing the shadow man booker again for the sixth year and the first part of this year will see me reviewing some books from the past year as I try to catch up.

Happy new year for tomorrow from allnhere at Winstonsdad .

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