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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > July/August 2017 > Read all about it

Read all about it

Bertrand Laverdure incorporates a variety of stylistic approaches to deconstruct the effects of literature on its consumers BY STEVEN W. BEATTIE



Bertrand Laverdure; Oana Avasilichioaei, trans. BookThug

IF ENGLISH CANADA ever wants to break out of the literary doldrums in which it all too frequenly finds itself mired, it would do well to stop casting its eyes wistfully back at a nostalgic era of cultural nationalism in the 1960s and ‘70s – the period responsible for the first wave of what has become known (derisively in many circles) as CanLit – and look toward Quebec. For several successive decades, Frenchlanguage publishing in that province has been responsible for some of the most eclectic and boundary-pushing literature being produced anywhere in the country, with only a fraction of it currently available in English translation.

This hesitancy among English-language publishers is, on one hand, understandable: by and large, readers are as reluctant to pick up a work with origins in a different language as cinema-goers are to plunk down money for a subtitled movie. (To overcome this obstacle, some less-than-forthcoming publishers refrain from including the translator’s name on the covers of books in translation.) On the other hand, the sensibility coming out of Quebec will appear foreign – in various senses of the word – to readers more comfortable with literature steeped in English Canada’s dominant mode of straighforward naturalism combined with a traditionally well-made story.

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