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1953: Chronicle of a Birth Foretold

by France Daigle, Robert Majzels, trans.

Readers who enjoyed the vivid scenes in France Daigle’s Real Life (winner of the 1991 Pascal Poirier Award), will find two characters they met there, Elizabeth, the physician, and Claude, the masseur, in Daigle’s latest book, 1953: Chronicle of a Birth Foretold.

This time, Daigle does not skitter among a half dozen characters presenting a vision of life in the 1990s. Instead, she concentrates on the events of 1953, when Elizabeth was only one- year old and Claude was three. They also appear as adults later in this book, but seem to have only a tangential connection to the main story, which is about Baby M., born in Moncton in November of that year.

Much of 1953 relates how the little girl nearly died from a congenital gastro-intestinal problem, celiac disease. Juxtaposed with this is Daigle’s painstaking account of world events preceding Baby M.’s conception (the Pope’s appointment of 24 new Cardinals, Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration as president of the United States, for example) through to her birth (Stalin’s death, Elizabeth II’s coronation, and what was playing in Acadian movie houses).

Daigle explains in detail the “yellows, greens, and greys of [Baby M.’s] excrement, not to mention its greasy textures, its frequency, and its stench…The seed of writing was buried deep in Baby M.’s entrails, which may be true for all writers, given their tendency to naval-gaze.”

This smells of autobiography, but the reader never knows whether it is or not. Daigle was also born in November 1953 but the fact is not mentioned in the book or on its cover. Nor does the reader learn whose birth is foretold in the title: that of Baby M., Jesus Christ, or maybe even the Acadian nation.

To be sure, Daigle warns the reader near the beginning that elements of a story may be “a game involving some difficulty and requiring a measure of skill…One may like or dislike this. [It is the] reader’s problem.”

A fair enough caveat: readers who don’t enjoy teasing meaning from a story won’t like this book. But those who do may find it fascinating, and even very funny. The faithful translation by Robert Majzels reads effortlessly.


Reviewer: Mary Soderstrom

Publisher: House of Anansi


Price: $18.95

Page Count: 176 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-88784-604-1

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1998-1

Categories: Fiction: Novels