Fennec foxes are the smallest of the canids and are characterized by disproportionately large ears, which amplify the sound of approaching prey. Fennecs weigh between 1.5 and 3.5 pounds, a range into which most books, including Vickie Gendreau’s Testament, would fall. That Testament might weigh about as much as a miniature fox would have suited Gendreau because fennecs were, for her, both an objet d’amour and a kind of currency. Testament has now been translated into English by Aimee Wall, who has, in doing so, brought a raw and inventive world from one side of Saint-Laurent Boulevard to the other.
In the first part of the book, the protagonist, Vickie, has one hundred hungry fennec foxes in her car. A small boy dressed in black gives her another fox on a leash. A man working at the metro has fif teen more to give her out by the bike racks. Her friend Max dies because a bag meant to catch him when he jumps off a viaduct is already full of fennecs.
In the second part of the book, Vickie is dead. The brown envelopes she had prepared for her loved ones have been delivered, each containing a USB key, several hundred fennec foxes, and other items irreverently given – an inflatable doll, a flowered bikini. On the USBs, voice to Vickie, who Eye’s Wide Twat.doc, Fuck Meow Harder.doc, Jean Short Party.doc and so on. Throughout, Vickie writes of the man of her life and how she wasn’t the woman of his. We see her bawling in a bookstore; we see her planning extravagant seductions involving smoked eel.
Translated by Aimee Wall
English readers will encounter a translation that faithfully captures Gendreau’s slangy French, and they might note its parallels with works by Sheila Heti or Kathy Acker because of its defiance of a patriarchal literary world, of the so-called rules of self-representation, of what constitutes “women’s writing.” Testament blurs fact and fiction, defying not just how life should be portrayed, but death, too. Don’t be reverent. And don’t pretend that this isn’t a world where “A girl’s skin is being bruised by a man in a van / somewhere.”
Testament won’t be for everyone. In particular, it won’t be for the prudes or the judgers, but it might be for the man Gendreau loved, and it was certainly for her mother, to whom she confessed everything, and her brother, whom she sagely advised, “Don’t talk bullshit to seem interesting. Be yourself. Big or small. Without makeup. With morning breath. The soul has no need of Colgate.” Testament is for anyone bored of dictates that women’s writing must be lyrical, tender, or psychological. Wall’s translation lucidly captures the spiky agony of the early twenties – how everything seems to be life and death – which, for Gendreau, it was, because death was approaching, and she was listening for it. mRb