I was invited by Merilyn Simonds to join a blog tour with about a dozen other authors. See the full list of writers on my home page. This was a great opportunity for me to clarify some of my own ideas about the blog tour questions, which are; what I am working on, why is my work different, what is my writing process, and why do I write what I write? See the four related blogs on my Blog page.
Emancipation Day won the 2013 Amazon.ca First Novel Award. I remember when the award was called the Books in Canada First Novel Award, when I was the managing editor of Books in Canada magazine. The winning novel will be announced on April 30. Congratulations to the other four finalists.
My essay, “Tragedy Postponed”, about the detective novel as a work of classic comedy, appeared in the May issue of Numéro Cinq, the online magazine edited by Canadian novelist Douglas Glover. Finally all that reading of detective fiction is paying off. The May issue was a remarkable gathering of goods, which also included essays and stories by and about Lydia Davis, W.G. Sebald, a rescuscitation of the unjustly neglected but wonderful poet, Adrien Stoutenburg, and a lot of other enticing writing. Definitely worth a double click.
I’m delighted that the Canadian Booksellers Association and the Retail Council of Canada placed Emancipation Day on its shortlist for Fiction Book of the Year in their annual Libris Awards. The other authors included in this shortlist are Lynn Coady, Joseph Boyden, Anthony De Sa, and Andrew Piper. Congrats to Joseph for a deserved win.
My short story, “It’s Always Sunny and Warm in Windsor,” appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Queen’s Quarterly magazine.
My interview with Shelagh Rogers, in which we discuss Emancipation Day, was aired on her program “The Next Chapter” on Monday, November 25. If you missed it, you can listen to it as a podcast at cbc.ca.
Emancipation Day was listed among the Globe 100: the Globe and Mail Guide to the year’s best books. See the Globe Books section in the paper for Saturday, November 23 (page R17), or click here for the on-line version.
My translation of Louis Hamelin’s novel, October 1970, was voted by Canadians to be one of the top 10 novels that can change Canada. Find out more about the CBC Canada Reads contest by clicking here.
Both Emancipation Day and October 1970 have been declared one of the top 100 books of 2013 by Amazon.ca editors.
My essay, “On the Willing Suspension of Disbelief,” published in Event 41:1 last year, has been included in the anthology Best Canadian Essays 2013, published by Tightrope Editions and available now in a bookstore near you.
My essay, “Resurrecting the Dead,” about how Emancipation Day morphed from a work of nonfiction into a novel, was published in Write Magazine, then picked up by Hazlitt, the online magazine published by Doubleday. To read the essay, go to The Blog page; to listen to a podcast of a shortened version of the essay, click here.
On August 1st, Launch Day, Emancipation Day was reviewed in the National Post, and a profile also appeared in the Afterward section of the paper. It was also included in Amazon.ca’s Editor’s Pick for the best books coming out in July. Chatelaine magazine has also chosen Emancipation Day as its Book of the Month in the September issue, which will appear on newsstands in mid-August. The two-page spread will include a review, a brief profile, and an excerpt. This is very exciting, as Chatelaine is read by about 3 million people. An excerpt from Emancipation Day can be found on the popular reading website Scribd. They have excerpted all of Chapter 2, so you can read Chapter 1 on this site and then click here to continue reading.
~ by Louis Hamelin, translated from the French by Wayne Grady.
My English translation of Quebec novelist Louis Hamelin’s La Constellation du Lynx is scheduled for publication on September 14 by House of Anansi Press. The original French version, published in 2010 by Boréal, won the Prix Littéraire des Collégians, the Prix des librairies du Québec, the Grand Prix Littéraire de la Presse Québécoise, and the Prix Ringuet 2011.
My translation is titled October 1970, which alerts English-language readers to the novel’s main theme, the October Crisis in Montreal in the fall of 1970 surrounding the kidnapping and assassination of Pierre Laporte, and the imposition of the War Measures Act. The 600-page novel reads like a literary thriller, recreating those exciting events in fictionalized form, and offering some fascinating conjectures as to the motives and methods of the politicians and separatists who squared off over the issue of Quebec independence, an issue that still burns in the heart of the province today.
In the novel, journalist Samuel Nihilo is retracing the events of the October Crisis, trying to make sense of the many inconsistencies and contradictions he finds in the testimonies, police reports and newspaper accounts of the day. He interviews as many of the key players as he can find – travelling to France, England, and Mexico to do so – and sorts out notes made at the time by his late professor, Chevalier Branlequeue, who was convinced that the entire separatist connection was a hoax perpetrated, or at least encouraged, by the federal government.
I was living in Ottawa when Pierre Trudeau implemented the War Measures Act, and well remember the tension as protests were mounted against the suspension of civil liberties and the presence of armed soldiers in the streets and federal buildings. I moved to Montreal the following year, and was caught up in the heady post-Crisis fallout and the build-up to the election of the separatist Parti Québécois government in 1976. Translating this novel has been an exciting return to those formative years in the ongoing history of a people, a province and a country.
October 1970, by Louis Hamelin.
From Chapter One: La Future (Quebec), Summer 1975
My name is Marcel Duquet and I am going to die in about five minutes. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the crows look like nuns’ veils blown open by the wind and I like the rumbling sound the tractor makes, the way it fills my ears as another row of hay falls before the harvester. I am forty-two years old, I have a round bald spot on the top of my head, which is so hot I feel like a prisoner who’s been scalped by Indians and hung by my feet over a bed of coals until my brain starts boiling. The red scarf tied around my tonsure is brighter than the paint on the Massey-Ferguson, it must be a visible splash against the maples and the blue sky when I make the turn at the bottom of the field.
Now that I’m on the uphill run, I can see him walking towards me through the cut hay. It’s Coco. And it’s like my heart stops beating. Then it starts again: thoughts, the saliva in my mouth, the family of crows. In a way, I already know what he wants. I look around, nothing but the field bordered by the split-rail fence, the aspens and pines, the sugar bush, above them the thick blue arc of sky, the invisible river at the end of the land. And here, Coco Cardinal trudging across the field towards me, face completely red, glistening with sweat, fat, hunched over, hands paddling the air, winded.
I get down from the tractor, leaving the motor running, and walk towards Cardinal, who has stopped a short distance from me. He’s waiting until I reach him. Squinting into the sun, the light too harsh. As I close the distance, I wipe rivulets of burning sweat from my eyelids and forehead. I stop three feet from where he’s standing. I swallow. I manage a smile.
“Hey, Coco. Been a while…”
He shrugs. He’s sweating like a pig, his summer shirt completely unbuttoned and soaked under the armpits. His upper lip glistens, as though his lungs were trying to get out through his nose. His ant-red eyes want to unglue themselves from his face. Before he opens his mouth to speak, a black fist grips my insides.
“Well, if it ain’t Marcel. They let you out of prison, eh? I hope they rammed a broomstick up your ass first.”
He finds this funny. He giggles. I take another look around, the standing hay is stronger than I am. No one else in sight. My heart pounds in my chest but I hardly hear it. I can barely move. But, as I said, I manage to smile.
“I survived, as you see…”
He sneezes once, twice, again and again, his face twitching uncontrollably. Still doing coke, I see. As he sneezes he also seems to be thinking. I wonder if I should take advantage of it, get the jump on him, grab him by the throat and finish him off some way or other. But I let the opportunity pass.
“There’s people say you talk too much. That since you got out you turned into a real chatterbox…”
I try to swallow; nothing. He spits on the ground.
“A goddamned stool pigeon!”
He’s not using his normal voice. I try to make a gesture of protest, but my arm feels like it weighs a ton. With him it’s the opposite: his moves his arm with the lightning speed of a cobra and suddenly there’s a gun at the end of it. I feel the rim of metal against my forehead, sucking out everything in it. My brain melts like a block of ice, useless, Nothing else.
“And the other thing, you asshole, is that you stole my wife…”
I try to say no, but all I can do is shake my head, not so much because of the cold metal against my skin, although it’s still there. Everything happening to me now seems very far away, far from my head, which keeps falling, gently spreading out into the round darkness that pushes back at me harder and deeper, at the centre of my forehead, on my skin beaten by the sun. There’s excitement in his heavy, menacing voice.
“On your knees, Duquet! Now, on your knees in front of me! I’m not gonna say it again…”
I let myself fall and it’s like an act of deliverance, I start to say I’m sorry, I want to say it, my eyes raised through a valley of tears, to the muzzle that bores its hole into the silence, this blind full stop in the field, this pitch of forgotten light, of sun, earth, hot. The standing hay and the hay cut down by the reaper. Bewilderment.