Against the Wind Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9780889226968
Pages: 168
Pub. Date: September 15 2012
Dimensions: 8.5" x 5.5" x 0.5"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Fiction / FIC025000

  • FICTION / Psychological

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Against the Wind

By Madeleine Gagnon
Translated by Phyllis Aronoff
By 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.

“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, Jennifer Hunter

“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

"... effective as an act of mourning and, ultimately, healing."
Montreal Review of Books, Crystal Chan

“[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

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