It’s never not chilling. Each year in early December, remembrances unfurl on social networks and in the mainstream media. Every single time I walk through the Place du-6-décembre-1989 between the fourteen granite stelae, I have a lump in my throat. And I’m dismantled, again and still, as I sit here reading Josée Boileau’s account of the Montreal massacre and its echoes.
The publication of Avant Desire: A Nicole Brossard Reader is a happy occasion to be sure, but it does beg some questions. Notably: “What took so long?” Brossard’s career spans five decades, after all, and though compilations of her work have appeared, there hasn’t been a collection with the ambition demonstrated by Avant Desire before now.
The dark side of Chicoutimi, an industrial town in the Saguenay, is the main character in Kevin Lambert’s first novel, recently translated into English by Donald Winkler as You Will Love What You Have Killed. Lambert, a Chicoute native, channels the resentment that fuelled his flight to Montreal in early adulthood into this vengeful, desperately violent novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire trilogy and was especially grateful for its rejection of most aspects of the conventional novel, but I also felt suspicious of an overarching cleverness that brushed against so many difficult questions, while at the same time brushing them off.
The Headless Man is Montreal-based writer Peter Dubé’s twelfth book. His previous publications encompass novels, collections of short fiction, a novella, essays, three edited anthologies of gay and queer literature, and – like The Headless Man – a book-length prose poem. This pluralistic approach to form is mirrored in a polymath’s interest in the world.
Borderline is the first book by Montreal Francophone writer Marie-Sissi Labrèche. Released in 2000, the work won a cult following and went on to be adapted into a film of the same name, whose script won the 2009 Genie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Borderline is a semi-autobiographical narrative that follows a young woman named Sissi as she navigates Montreal in the late nineties, engaging in risky behaviours, struggling with mental illness, and reflecting on her traumatic past.
Hungarian-born, Montreal-based writer Endre Farkas is an award-winning poet. In 2016, he published the semi-autobiographical novel Never, Again, about a family of Holocaust survivors in Hungary. Home Game is the follow-up, with the protagonist Tommy Wolfstein now a teenager in Montreal amid the throes of 1960s social upheaval. Tommy, a star soccer player, gets the opportunity to travel to his homeland for a game, forcing him to confront the spectre of his family’s past.
Contrary to what one would expect from the title, Home Sickness is not a work that unfolds in a diaspora setting, away from “home.” This short story collection by Taiwanese-Canadian author Chih-Ying Lay is set in Taiwan.
Riding the Elephant: Surviving and Loving in a Bipolar Marriage is a self-published memoir from a woman about to turn ninety, and its words inspire as much as they bring insight. Without being overly sentimental, McKenty paints a picture of family charity, faith, and tenacity within an Irish clan whose tentacles reached India and China as missionaries and healers.
Prize-winning Cree and Algonquin painter and poet Virginia Pésémapéo Bordeleau wrote and published her debut novel, Ourse bleue, in 2007 – the first to be published by an Indigenous woman in Quebec. Blue Bear Woman is, however, her second to be translated into English, and finely so by award-winning translators Susan Ouriou and Christelle Morelli. Published by Inanna Press, the novel traces the seemingly easy and meandering journey the narrator, Victoria, makes to visit relatives and piece together her family story. It also makes plain her desire to resolve the enigmatic death of her Great-Uncle George, who went missing in 1953 on his hunting expedition during a period of starvation.