A Matter of Gravity is about the forces that draw two men together. Hermann, an embalmer and doctor’s son, devotes himself to the dead to mask his disappointment that, unlike his father, he cannot cure the Âliving. Hu is an ailing pianist who dwells in memories of past glory. Hermann displaces his drive for perfection and order onto his elderly neighbours. Hu, ashamed of his lame, knobbed hands, rarely leaves his airless room. Hermann contends he is eternally separated from the world bya “permanent cushion of air” that keeps him wavering between two women and hovering above humanity. Hu is bound to a nightmarish reality, shuffling between emphysema, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease.
When a mysterious manuscript, possibly written by one of Hermann’s centenarian neighbours, connects one man’s routine with the other’s, an extended afternoon at the park eventually leads back to Hu’s piano. This marks the beginning of the men’s tenuous relationship, which, while healing in nature, is made more fragile by the pianist’s heightened Âmortality.
A Matter of Gravity is a sensitive, delicate, and humorous novel that unfolds in liminal spaces: between life and death, youth and age, earth and sky. By the end of the final, transformative meeting between Hermann and Hu, Vachon gently broaches the question that paralyzes each man and the people whom they love: When faced with terminal Âillness, how do we embracethe unsatisfactory life we leave behind?
After studying French literature in Quebec and France, Hélène Vachon began working for the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications. Since 1995, she has published two novels, more than twenty works of children’s literature, a number of translations. Her books, most notably the Somerset series, La tête ailleurs, Singuliers voyageurs, and L’arbre tombé, have been nominated for many prizes. Vachon won both the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Mr. Christie’s Book Award in 2002 for L’oiseau de passage. She lives near Quebec City.
Phyllis Aronoff lives in Montreal. She has a master’s degree in English literature. The Wanderer, her translation of La Québécoite by Régine Robin, won the 1998 Jewish Book Award for fiction. She and Howard Scott were awarded the 2001 Quebec Writers’ Federation Translation Award for The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701. She is currently president of the LTAC.
Howard Scott is a Montreal literary translator who specializes in the genres of fiction and non-fiction. He is a past president of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada. His literary translations include works by Madeleine Gagnon and Quebec science fiction writer Élisabeth Vonarburg. In 1997, Scott received the prestigious Governor General’s Translation Award for his work on Louky Bersianik’s The Euguelion. In 1999, his translation of “The Eighth Register," a science fiction story by Alain Bergeron, won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for best short-form.
“You take leave of this book with renewed joy in your heart.”
— Jean Fugère
“A beautiful, surprising novel that speaks with tenderness and dark humour.”
– La Semaine
“A gem of a novel that is both grave and cheerful. We sense Boris Vian’s influence in the rollicking way the author deals with disease and tragedy, but the text carves its own path through constant innovation. [A Matter of Gravity] may well lead us to death’s door, but its main impact is to stir the blood in our veins.”
“A meditation on disease, death, and old age … [A Matter of Gravity] tackles these difficult issues with surprising grace.”
– La Presse