Six in translation
♦ Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française was notable as much for how it came to be published as for its story. Written by a French woman who died in Auschwitz, the manuscript was not discovered until 1998; it became a worldwide sensation when it was finally published in 2004. This year there is a film version of the novel – starring Michelle Williams and Kristen Scott Thomas – and the first volume of a graphic novel – Suite Française: Storm in June – by French artist Emmanuel Moynot. The Arsenal Pulp edition is translated by Canadian David Homel.
♦ Louis Hamelin is the author of October 1970 (Wayne Grady, trans.), an alternative history of the Quebec FLQ crisis that was a 2013 Q&Q editor’s choice. This August, Victoria publisher Ekstasis Editions is bringing out the English translation of Hamelin’s 1994 novel Betsi Larousse, ou l’ineffable eccéité de la loutre. The English edition, Betsi Larousse, is translated by Jean-Paul Murray.
♦ University of Winnipeg professor Per Brask and Victoria-based poet and essayist Patrick Friesen collaborate as co-translators of a volume of poetry by noted Danish writer Ulrikka S. Gernes. Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments (Brick Books) is a suite of poems that traverses various states of mind and settings as diverse as Copenhagen and Hong Kong.
♦ Renowned Québécois author Larry Tremblay returns with a novel translated by the renowned Sheila Fischman. The Orange Grove (Biblioasis) is the story of twin boys who hail from an anonymous Middle East nation. When their grandparents die in a bomb blast, one twin flees to Canada while the other is set on a course to become a suicide bomber.
♦ Perrine Leblanc won a 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for her novel L’homme blanc, translated into English (by David Scott Hamilton) as Kolia. Anansi, which published the earlier book, is set to bring out Leblanc’s follow-up, this time with Lazer Lederhendler handling translation duties. The Lake will appear in September.
♦ Leblanc’s former collaborator, David Scott Hamilton, has been tapped to handle another Anansi translation, this one of a novel by Claudine Dumont. A psychological thriller in the tradition of Emma Donoghue’s Room, Captive tells the story of a woman who wakes up to find herself locked in a tiny cell with no clue how or why she has come to be there.
Jamming gender binaries
Fiction and poetry influenced by the academic discipline of gender studies is making a surge in the culture; two intriguing works appearing this fall interrogate notions of gender identity in different ways: M Is Dead (Anvil) is a collaborative novel by five writers – Michael V. Smith, Madeline Sonik, Annette Lapointe, Brian Kaufman, and Mary Ann. The novel tells the story of five friends who share reminiscences about M, a recently deceased female-to-male transgender performance artist. And September sees the publication of the debut poetry collection by Ali Blythe, a recipient of the Lambda Foundation’s Candis Graham Writing Scholarship. Twoism (Goose Lane Editions) questions the validity of gender binaries and bodily limits.
Following up a runaway literary success can be a daunting proposition. It was enough to drive J.D. Salinger into hiding for more than five decades. Not content to rest on their laurels, however, this fall sees two authors who had phenomenal accolades accrue to their previous novels return to see whether lightning will strike twice.
Novel newcomers from NeWest
Edmonton-based literary press NeWest has lived up to its name by providing a venue for a wide variety of debut writers from the Prairies and the rest of Canada. This fall, the publisher showcases novels from a trio of debut writers.
▶First up is Wolfville, Nova Scotia, resident Wendi Stewart, whose novel Meadowlark is the 41st title in NeWest’s Nunatak First Fiction Series, home to debuts by Hiromi Goto and Thomas Wharton. Stewart’s novel follows a young girl whose mother and baby brother are killed in an automobile accident, forcing her to grow up alone in the company of her grief-stricken father.
▶ Next comes Lisa Guenther, who resides in the delightfully named Saskatchewan town of Livelong. Friendly Fire opens at the beginning of summer, as the corpse of Darby Swank’s aunt is discovered floating in a lake. The novel goes on to peel back the veneer from a seemingly pleasant rural community to expose the pain and violence that lies beneath.
▶ Third up is Toronto-born Christine Rehder Horne, who now resides in Calgary. Her adopted home provides the setting for a politically charged novel about a group of radical environmentalists known as “Tarstoppers” who spark a heated confrontation when they take an oil executive hostage. From the Occupy movement to the black bloc G20 protesters to Conservative government legislation that risks conflating environmental protest with terrorism, Tarstopping has plenty of real-world relevance in 2015.