Emotional Geography

One Beautiful Day to Come

By X. I. Selene

A review of One Beautiful Day To Come by Robert Lalonde

Published on April 1, 2002

One Beautiful Day To Come
Robert Lalonde

Ekstasis Editions
$16.95
paper
131pp
1-896860-34-6

The translation of Robert Lalonde’s important 1986 novel, Une belle journée d’avance, deserves flawless typesetting, an effective blurb, and a worthy English title, preferably without the double entendre. As challenging as it may be to present serious literature concerning conception, the untidy appearance of One Beautiful Day to Come induces excessive squirming. But despite Lalonde’s publisher’s claim that “the author plays with time, mastering it like a great novelist,” the innovative temporal logic of this book attests that Robert Lalonde, in fact, is a great novelist.

If art seeks absolute freedom through a seemly order of its own, then its primary challenge is time. One Beautiful Day to Come thus addresses the impossible in its heroic rearrangement of experiences. Here, the day of the protagonist’s own conception is twinned with that of his progeny. As the original title suggests, the story hovers in between perspectives, in a future-anterior limbo. Slipping unobtrusively between two and more generally chronological timelines, the diverging narrative opens at dawn and stretches well into the night of this enormous multiplying day.

Even with the temporal dissolution, One Beautiful Day to Come reads easily, illuminated by a constellation of characters encompassing a Métis hunter, a trio of nuns, a frenzied dog caught in the play of his instincts, and an amorous pair of (male) cousins. At the centre of this cosmology are the two generations of parents-to-be. After years of travelling, the protagonist has returned with his lover to inherit his childhood home. This uncanny return reopens the story of his parents’ forbidden marriage and flight to the house 37 years before.

One Beautiful Day to Come covers a wide-ranging emotional geography. But as is the danger when writing about peak experiences, the prose becomes at times preposterously overwrought. The most striking passages are the understated tracings of nature and ordinary things. The objects in the house, alienated from their owners, join distant moments seamlessly, in a manner that anticipates the cinematic transitions of Robert Lepage. Lalonde has a gift for depicting objects stilled and eerily becalmed, objects that seem to gaze with hidden eyes. The protagonist’s lover expresses this current beautifully: “When I was running a fever, I used to watch the objects in my room…I would say to myself, ‘Those things are eternal, they’ll outlive me. I am going to die, but those fantastical, immortal objects will remain.'”

One Beautiful Day to Come strives to detach life from one of its essential elements, liberating humanity from time. mRb

X. I. Selene is a Montreal writer.

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