Days of Sand

Days of Sand

By Anne Chudobiak

A review of Days Of Sand by Helene Dorion

Published on May 1, 2008

Days Of Sand
Helene Dorion

Cormorant Books
$18
paper
111pp
978-1-897151-07-5

Days of Sand might be called a memoir. It does touch on major events from author Hélène Dorion’s childhood, but readers looking for strictly biographical information about the acclaimed poet and Quebec City native should be warned: this is not that kind of book. Although Dorion runs through some specifics-her hospitalization at age six for a hernia, the nature show she used to watch every week with her father-the result is more of a meditation on life in general than on hers in particular.

This becomes evident early on, in a flashback to the ’60s, where we see Hélène trailing behind her father in an anonymous shopping centre parking lot. She looks up to the night sky and suddenly comes to the realization that growing up is like “being sucked toward top and toward bottom at the same time.” So begins Dorion’s straightforward cataloguing of life’s most vexing truths. One day we will die, as will our parents, as will our children. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we are, or when. The outcome for a little girl following her father through a parking lot is the same as it is for a prisoner rotting away in a Roman dungeon. As horrific as that may sound, there is some comfort in this, at least in Dorion’s telling of it. Her tone is one of acceptance, as Jonathan Kaplansky’s translation ably conveys: “The sand runs out and the wave soon will carry everything away; all we can do is love.”

This is a prose work that has been billed, inexplicably, as a novel. It might be more helpful to approach it as one would a poem or even a piece of inspirational or devotional writing; as something to keep by your bed to soothe your mind on troubled nights, a reminder that we are all in this together. mRb

Anne Chudobiak is a Montreal writer, translator and editor.

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