New books from Québec well worth a read

Continuing with the reading theme (because I’ve been doing a lot of it recently and mostly with the aim of unearthing fiction that’s worth translating or comparing translated and translatable Québec fiction to what’s out there on the market already), I thought I’d share a few of my favourite books with you.


1. Le syndrome de la vis

Like most people, I discovered Marie-Renée Lavoie’s writing in La petite et le vieux. The translation rights to La petite have already been snapped up, but I’m hoping Lavoie’s second short novel is as good as her first. It’s about insomnia. That’s all I know.

2. Le Christ obèse

I went to a reading recently and Larry Tremblay was there. He read out the first few pages of his latest novel, Le Christ obèse, and I—like everyone in the audience—was hooked. Despite his claims to the contrary, it sounds very much like a roman noir: Edgar comes across the body of a young woman that four Horsemen of the Apocalypse leave for dead. He promises to be her saviour…

3. Gabriel et Juliette

It doesn’t take much for me to pick up a new book from Montréal publisher Marchand de feuilles. I’m a big fan of storytelling and their authors know how to tell really great stories! David Fitoussi is another author I know from an earlier work, in this case La bar-mitsva de Samuel, another novel I enjoyed and another that’s full of black humour. Black humour looks set to make an appearance this time round as well as David, a real estate agent, tries to fend off the advances of Juliette, who’s looking to settle down.


1. Poacher’s Faith

This is the translation of Marc Séguin’s La foi du braconnier, translated by Kathryn Gabinet-Kroo for Exile Editions. This short, intelligent novel is the tale of a poacher’s quest for faith amidst so much cynicism and disillusion. The original French is visceral, impregnated with smells, blood, and guts. I can’t wait to see what Kathryn Gabinet-Kroo did with it!

2. Atavismes

Atavismes is coming out later this year from Dalkey Archive Press in a translation by Pablo Strauss. The original was written by Raymond Bock and Bock will become the first writer from Québec to be published in translation by Dalkey. It has been hailed as an excellent first book, both tragic and profound. Looking forward to it!

3. Pour sûr

Pour sûr is not a novel from Québec. France Daigle is based in Moncton, New Brunswick, so not only is it not from Québec or about Québec, it is written in a completely different kind of French than that used in Québec. It is, however, one of the best books I have ever read. And my copy is now almost entirely dog-eared as I marked passages that would be, in my eyes, completely impossible to translate. So imagine my excitement (and amazement) when I learned it would be appearing in translation. Not so much that it would be appearing in translation, but that it would be appearing so soon after its French release. (The translation is slated for June 2013; the 752-page French original appeared in September 2011.) In any case, I can’t wait to see what translator Robert Majzels does with the likes of – Y a-t-y-dit vol de patrimoine ou viol de patrimoine? – Vol. – Awh. Good.


1. Chaque automne j’ai envie de mourir 

Chaque automne j’ai envie de mourir is a collection of very short stories, “unusual, moving, troubling texts that grab us and leave us reeling” (Le Devoir). The writing is simple, beautiful, crisp, packed full of nostalgia, humour, and a great deal of love.

I dream of a place where no one knows me, where I would be brand new.

Deep down, I dream even more of wanting to stay somewhere.”
With writing like this, this collection embodies much of what I love about the new voices in Québec fiction today.

2. La fiancée américaine and Bestiaire

Anybody who knows me has already heard me rave about both these books. I can talk about them for hours on end. Bestiaire is the book that made me want to become a literary translator and La fiancée is in many ways the coming together of all Dupont’s favourite themes to date.
Bestiaire is full of creative and vivid imagery, a touching and sometimes hilarious account of the aftermath of the Quiet Revolution in small-town Québec. La fiancée américaine, meanwhile, is “without a shadow of a doubt, the most impressive novel to come out of Québec this fall” (Le Devoir) and has appeared without fail on every Book of the Year list for 2012. Dupont’s fourth novel in eight years, it is his most impressive—and most international—work to date. Dupont set out to write a novel he would forever be proud of and, by God, he doesn’t disappoint.
You can read my translation of the first chapter of Bestiaire (for which the British Comparative Literature Association was kind enough to award me the John Dryden Translation Prize for best unpublished translation) right here in carte blanche magazine.

3. La saison des pluies

La saison des pluies is a children’s book about the death of a child’s father written by Mario Brassard and illustrated by Suana Verelst. It was published in March 2011 by Soulières and has won all kinds of prizes since.
The book is very short (around 4,000 words), but it is telling that it was written by a poet: every word packs a punch. The overall effect is simple, beautiful, and very sad.