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Fiction Psychological

Les sables mouvants / Shifting Sands

by (author) Hubert Aquin

translated by Joseph Jones

Ronsdale Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2009
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2009
    List Price

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This bilingual edition is the first English translation of Aquin's groundbreaking novella. It is also the first time it appears in French, outside of the multi-volume critical edition. With this novella the young Aquin turned away from ordinary narrative towards the signature qualities of his later writing. Frank sexuality, grotesque imagery and an autobiographical context helped to keep this story from previously being published.

Alone in exotic Naples, an impassioned François anticipates the arrival of his girlfriend Hélène. Uncertainty and impatience warp his waiting into an obsessive mélange of recollection and speculation. His interior monologue threads its way through a disorienting universe of a claustrophobic dilapidated hotel room, hostile incomprehension in the streets of a foreign city, and a train station where the anticipated rendezvous cannot occur. Unremitting psychological exploration drives the narrator towards an extreme personal apocalypse.

Joseph Jones' accompanying essay situates the novella with reference to other works in which psychic conditions generate a striking literary representation that appears to operate largely outside of any conscious tradition. Included also is an "Appreciation" by Marie-Claire Blais.

About the authors

Though Hubert Aquin (1929–1977) was born and died in Montreal, he spent much time abroad, especially in Paris and Switzerland. Today he is considered by Quebec and by Canada as one of our greatest authors. He also took an interest in radio and television, as well as film; for a number of years he worked for the National Film Board of Canada.But above all else he is known for his novels, and especially Next Episode. The work has sold regularly at the rate of 1500 copies a year since its publication in 1965 — a significant figure for Quebec and its seven million inhabitants.Aquin was offered a Governor General’s award for his second novel Blackout, but refused the award, received the Prix de La Presse for his third novel The Antiphonary, and was awarded the Prix de la Ville de Montréal for Hamlet’s Twin, his fourth and last novel. In 1972, he received the Prix David for his entire body of work.Since his death in 1977, Aquin’s oeuvre has been and continues to be the object of numerous journal articles and academic dissertations, not only in Canada but in France, Italy, Germany and elsewhere — all countries where his work is taught.

Hubert Aquin's profile page

Joseph Jones lived in Aquin’s Montreal during the October Crisis. A thematic quest that has extended over three decades led him to uncover this novella. Joseph Jones lives in Vancouver, BC.

Joseph Jones' profile page

Other titles by Hubert Aquin

Other titles by Joseph Jones