Posted: Monday June 24, 2019
Happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day!
Cover of Michel Tremblay's A Crossing of Hearts.

Happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day to all of our Québécois readers, and to French-Canadians across the country. Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrates diverse Québécois culture, and Talon is proud to have a long history of translating Québécois classics – as well as new and exciting titles from emerging authors – for anglophone audiences. Today, we’d like to recommend some titles to you.

Michel Tremblay’s A Crossing of Hearts (transl. Sheila Fischman) continues his Desrosiers Diaspora series of novels, a family saga set in Montréal during World War I. In this novel, set in August 1915, Montréal is stifled by a heat wave while war rages in Europe. The three Desrosiers sisters – Tititte, Teena, and Maria – have been planning a week of vacation in the mountains, to do nothing but gossip, laugh, drink, and overeat while basking in the sun. This novel bursts with life as Nana, a young city girl and daughter of Maria, explores the natural world – and the enchanted forest of her inner, maturing self.

Denise Boucher’s The Fairies Are Thirsty (transl. Alan Brown) is a daring, passionate and poetic exploration of the role of women through all time, as well as the most iconic, celebrated and talked-about piece of Québécois feminist theatre. In the play, three women – a housewife, a whore and the Virgin Mary – fight to break out of the stereotyped roles in which they have been imprisoned for centuries. At the end of the play they stand alone, “before themselves,” “renewed,” and ask the audience to imagine a world in which such stereotypes do not exist.

Réjean Ducharme’s Go Figure (transl. Will Browning) is the hauntingly beautiful tale of a Montréal couple alienated from each other after suffering the miscarriage of twin girls. Mammy, the wife of Rémi Vavasseur, has gone away. Not because she no longer loves him but because she no longer loves herself. She is criss-crossing Europe and Africa in the company of the dangerous and blonde Raïa, Rémi’s former mistress. Meanwhile, Rémi remodels a ramshackle house in rural Québec, designed for Mammy, if she ever comes back, “in flesh and bed.” A diary novel by one of Québec’s most unique and accomplished literary voices.

Marie-Claire Blais’s American Notebooks (transl. Linda Gaboriau) is an autobiographical account of the intellectual flowering of a great writer. It is the spring of 1963, and Blais has just won a coveted Guggenheim fellowship. She chooses Cambridge, Massachusetts, as the place where she will begin her writer’s apprenticeship with her mentor, Edmund Wilson. An album of exquisitely drawn literary portraits of companions, intellectuals, writers, musicians, artists and social activists of the period—Edmund and Elena Wilson; Mary Meigs; Maud Maugan; Barbara Deming; Truman Capote; Jacques Hébert, her first Québec publisher, then senator; and many others—it also introduces many of the real life personalities who have inspired her fictional characters.

Larry Tremblay’s The Obese Christ (transl. Sheila Fischman) follows the story of Edgar, a timid, asocial thirty-something who is haunted by the death of his overbearing mother. When he witnesses a young woman experience a traumatic event, he subsequently bears the unconscious victim home and pledges to act as the mysterious woman’s saviour.

Bonne lecture et joyeuse Saint-Jean-Baptiste!

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