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Fiction Literary


by (author) Nelly Arcan

translated by David Scott Hamilton

Anvil Press Publishers
Initial publish date
Jun 2011
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2011
    List Price

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Somewhere in Montreal, in the not too distant future, an obscure company offers custom-designed suicides for its clients with one condition: their desire to die must be pure and absolute. Antoinette Beauchamp is a successful candidate but her suicide is not. Now a bedridden paraplegic, hooked up to machines that monitor all her bodily functions, she tells her story, taking the reader into the Kafkaesque world of the company and its bewildering cast of characters. 'Exit' is at once a profound examination of what it is that drives someone to want to end their life, as well as how that urge can be turned on its head against all odds. Written with her signature brio and acerbic wit, Nelly Arcan's last novel is a hymn to life.

"[The protagonist's] voice is thoroughly belligerent, as she mercilessly explains why she is bent on pursuing hopelessness, ugliness, all that is antithetical to life, and what it means to exist without ‘that strength of will to desire, to discover, to love,to believe'... Ultimately, though, 'Exit' is a strangely hopeful novel..." - Canadian Literature

"This book plucked the brain from my skull and punted it through the uprights of remembering what writing can be like when a true artist unleashes her talent, passion and fearlessness in a book. No false compromises here. No half-steps. Just a rigorous exercise in ethics and contemporary morals wrapped in humour, helplessness and the absurd. For a book about suicide the writing is tight, energetic, rigorous ... This book will be on my best of the year list." - Sean Cranbury, Books on the Radio

"A powerful argument for suicide as a human right, 'Exit' is also strangely life-affirming. Ordinarily, these contradictory positions could suffice as the motor of a plot. Arcan's protagonist is the irascible, narcissistic Antoinette Beauchamp, who seeks strength and reason to live from within the depths of her own twisted psychology. Knowing that the young woman who wrote this outrageously beautiful, thoroughly original novel did not is, well, heartbreaking. Cruel, even. So 'Exit' and the late Nelly Arcan's life are a package. In the end, though, I only thought of Nelly Arcan. How could she have had this book inside her, let it out, and still leave us? Great beauty can be found in very dark places." -The Rover

Govenor General's Award Finalist

The Globe 100: The very best of 2011

About the authors

Nelly Arcan was born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Her first novel Putain (2001; Whore, 2004, Grove Press), drawing on her experience working in the sex trade in Montreal, caused a sensation and enjoyed immediate critical and media success. It was a finalist for both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Femina, two of France’s most prestigious literary awards. Two more novels followed, establishing her as a literary star in Quebec and France: Folle (2004), also nominated for the Prix Femina; and À ciel ouvert (2007). She is also the author of an illustrated book on the beauty myth for young girls: L’enfant dans le miroir (2007).

Paradis, clef en main (Exit) was her fourth novel and was completed just days before she committed suicide in 2009 at the age of thirty-six.

Nelly Arcan's profile page

David Scott Hamilton was born in Adelaide, South Australia. He was educated in schools throughout Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, before settling in Vancouver, B.C. He studied linguistics and French at Simon Fraser University, and French literature and law at the University of Ottawa. He has worked as a freelance translator since 1995, most notably for the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. Exit, his translation of Nelly Arcan’s final novel, Paradis, clef en main, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation and named a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book. He lives in Montreal.

David Scott Hamilton's profile page

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