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Against the Wind
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Sunday May 27, 2012 in Books

Against the Wind

By Madeleine Gagnon
Translated by Phyllis Aronoff & Howard Scott

Is an artist born, or rather, created by experience? From the moment in childhood when he is forced to take drastic action to defend his adoptive mother from a violent assault – the only maternal figure that he has ever known – it is evident that the life of Joseph Sully-Jacques is to be no ordinary life, and one marked by sorrow and adversity.

Unable to cope with or even recognize the residual effects of his trauma in adolescence, Joseph retreats into an increasingly abstract world, one in which he must confront what he calls his “visions.” And when he hears of the death of his natural mother, this brings to the surface memories he had hoped were buried deep within him, and precipitates the form of various crises to come, particularly as he discovers and makes use of the artistic abilities revealed to his family during his psychiatric evaluation.

After many more hardships, the young man does find meaning to the absurdities of life, ironically in the asylum, where he meets a virtuoso pianist whose condition prevents her from continuing to exercise her talents. They heal together through their mutual love, which will soon subsist upon nothing but memory and absence. During mournful years of raising his son alone, in his extensive adversaria, Joseph sets out to reconcile the contradictory themes in his life, including abandonment, madness, love and death.

In spare, lucid prose, and in a style reminiscent of André Gide, Madeleine Gagnon invites the reader to experience the creation and development of an artist “in his own words” – Joseph’s gelid journal entries that are to become emphatic poetic laments – in a novel that chronicles the extreme destitution of Quebec in the years before World War Two and in abstract developing forms of artistic expression after years of uncertainty and loss.

ISBN 13: 9780889226968 | ISBN 10: 889226962
5.5 W x 8.5 H inches | 168 pages
$14.95 CAN / $14.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Fiction | Bisac: FIC019000
Paperback Edition

QUOTES OF NOTE

"The magic of Gagnon’s writing, her metaphysical descriptions and elicitory vocabulary, her understanding of the workings of the mind, makes Joseph a empathetic character. Against the Wind is an intuitive novel, a spellbinding look into the mind of a man who is a son, an artist, a lover and a father."
—The Toronto Star

"After reading a book like this, you just want to remain silent, to talk only to yourself, in order to keep alive in your mind the resonances of a unique fictional world that has touched you, charmed you and won you over, revealing truths about both an individual and his society at the same time."
—La Presse

"[Gagnon is] someone in whom the boundary between inner and outer life is porous, her words are poetry and her ear for the words of others is poetry too. Everything she takes in from the world is filtered, processed, transformed by the insistent rhythms of the songs within her."
—Nancy Huston

About the Contributors

Madeleine Gagnon

Madeleine Gagnon has made a mark on Quebec literature as a poet, novelist, and non-fiction writer. Born in Amqui, a little village in the Matapedia Valley on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, she decided at the age of twelve to be a writer, and after her early education with the Ursuline nuns, went on to study literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis at the Université de Montréal, the Sorbonne, and the Université d’Aix-en-Provence, where she received her doctorate. Since 1969, she has published over thirty books while at the same time teaching literature in several Quebec universities.

Phyllis Aronoff

Phyllis Aronoff translates fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from French to English. The Wanderer, her translation of Régine Robin’s La Québécoite, received the 1998 Jewish Literary Award for fiction. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701, by Gilles Havard, co-translated with Howard Scott, won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Translation Award. A Slight Case of Fatigue, by Stéphane Bourguignon, another co-translation with Howard Scott, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Phyllis Aronoff is a past president of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada and currently represents translators on the Public Lending Right Commission of Canada.

Howard Scott

Howard Scott is a Montreal literary translator who works with fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. His translations include works by Madeleine Gagnon, science-fiction writer Élisabeth Vonarburg, and Canada’s Poet Laureate, Michel Pleau. Scott received the Governor General’s Literary Award for his translation of Louky Bersianik’s The Euguelion. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701, by Gilles Havard, which he co-translated with Phyllis Aronoff, won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Translation Award. A Slight Case of Fatigue, by Stéphane Bourguignon, another co-translation with Phyllis Aronoff, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Howard Scott is a past president of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada.


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