Forty-seven Stations for a Ravaged Town presents the tragic story of Lac Megantic, and is Jacques Rancourt’s first book in English, translated by Donald Winkler. This long narrative poem’s lyric intensity has deep emotional wellsprings. It is a heartbreaking elegy for those who died in the Lac Megantic disaster one dark July night in 2013, transforming a moment-by-moment account of the catastrophe into an uncompromising denunciation of all the negligence and human error that allowed it to happen. Forty-seven people were killed by the explosions and fire resulting from the derailment of a train carrying a particulary dangerous cargo of shale oil. Between September and December 2013, Rancourt, a native of Lac Megantic, wrote this long poem, and to contain his emotion imposed on himself demanding artistic constraints: forty-seven verses to honour the forty-seven victims, while invoking the fourteen Stations of the Cross. Forty-seven Stations for a Ravaged Town keeps a tight rein on its profound anger through its clinical precision and admirable emotional restraint. Jacques Rancourt has here found the perfect cadence to communicate the horror of the tragedy, along with the economic horror that is a by-product of modernity.
About the authors
Donald Winkler was born in Winnipeg, graduated from the University of Manitoba, and did graduate study at the Yale School of Drama. From 1967 to 1995 he was a film director and writer at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, and since the 1980s, a translator of Quebec literature. In 1994, 2011, and 2013 he won the Governor General Award for French to English translation, and has been a finalist for the prize on three other occasions. His translation of Samuel Archibald's short story collection, "Arvida," was a finalist for the 2015 Giller Prize. He lives in Montreal, Quebec.