About the Author

Sheila Fischman

Sheila Fischman is a member of the Order of Canada and has a doctorate from the University of Waterloo. In 1999, she received an honourary doctorate from the University of Ottawa. A two-time Governor General’s Award winner, Fischman has translated from French to English more than a hundred novels by such prominent Quebec writers as Michel Tremblay, Jacques Poulin, Anne Hébert, François Gravel, Marie-Claire Blais and Roch Carrier. She is a founding member of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada and has also been a book columnist for the Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette. In 2008, Fischman was awarded the prestigious Molson Prize for her outstanding contributions to Canadian literature.
Originally from Saskatchewan, Fischman currently resides in Montreal.

Books by this Author
Crossing the City

Crossing the City

edition:Book
tagged : literary
More Info
Crossing the City ebook

Crossing the City ebook

edition:eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
A Thing of Beauty

A Thing of Beauty

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Am I Disturbing You?

Am I Disturbing You?

edition:eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
An Appropriate Place

An Appropriate Place

edition:eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
Atonement

Atonement

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Bambi and Me

Bambi and Me

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Excerpt

Winner of the 1998 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation

close this panel
Bambi and Me ebook

Bambi and Me ebook

edition:eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
Birth of a Bookworm

Birth of a Bookworm

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Crossing the Continent

Crossing the Continent

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Cruelties

Cruelties

edition:eBook
More Info
Fugitives

Fugitives

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Good Life

Good Life

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :
More Info

How Levesque Won

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : elections
More Info
Love Alone

Love Alone

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary, crime
More Info
News from Édouard

News from Édouard

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Next Episode
Excerpt

Cuba is sinking in flames in the middle of Lac Léman while I descend to the bottom of things. Packed inside my sentences, I glide, a ghost, into the river’s neurotic waters, discovering as I drift the underside of surfaces and the inverted image of the Alps. Between the anniversary of the Cuban revolution and the date of my trial, I have time enough to ramble on in peace, to open my unpublished book with great care, and to cover this paper with the key-words that won’t set me free. I’m writing on a card table next to a window looking out on grounds enclosed by a sharp iron fence that marks the boundary between what’s unpredictable and what is locked up. I won’t get out before the day of reckoning. That’s written in several carbon copies as decreed, following valid laws and an unassailable royal judge. There are no distractions then, nothing to replace the clockwork of my obsession or make me deviate from the written record of my journey. Basically, only one thing really concerns me and it’s this: how should I set about writing a spy novel? My wish is complicated by the fact that I long to do something original in a genre that has so many unwritten rules and laws. Fortu nately, though, a certain laziness leads me to give up any idea about breathing new life into the tradition before I even get started. I may as well admit it – making myself comfortable in a literary form that’s already so well defined makes me feel very secure. And so without hesitation I decide to integrate my work within the main lines of the traditional spy novel. And since I want to set it in Lausanne, that’s taken care of. As quickly as I can, I eliminate any behaviour that would give my secret agent too much merit: he’s neither a Sphinx nor a highly perceptive Tarzan, neither God nor the Holy Ghost; he mustn’t be so logical that the plot need not be or, on the other hand, so lucid that I can complicate everything else and cook up some story that makes no sense, that when all’s said and done would only be understood by some bungling oaf with a gun who doesn’t share his thoughts with anyone. And if I were to introduce a Wolof Secret Agent . . . Everybody knows that Wolofs aren’t legion in French-speaking Switzerland and that they’re under-represented in the secret service. I know, I’m overdoing it, falling into the trap of the Afro-Asian bloc, giving in to the African and Madagascar Union lobby. But let me tell you something: if Hamidou Diop suits me, I can simply make him a secret agent in Lausanne on a counter-espionage mission, for no other reason than to get him out of Geneva where the air is less salubrious. Now I can reserve a suite at the Lausanne Palace for Hamidou, provide him with traveller’s cheques from the Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, and appoint him a Special Envoy (a phony one) from the Republic of Senegal to some big Swiss companies that want to invest in desert real estate. Once Hamidou is protected by his fake identity and settled in at the Lausanne Palace, I can bring cia and mi5 agents into the picture. And that’s that. In return for adding a few alluring lady spies and the algebraic treatment of the plot, I have my deal. Hamidou is getting impatient, I sense that he’s about to do something crazy: in fact, I suspect it’s already begun. My future novel is already in orbit, so far out that I can’t bring it back. I’m frozen, I’ve just been dumped here inside my alphabet, I’m shackled to it and asking myself some questions. To write the kind of spy novel we read would be dishonest: in fact, it would be impossible. Writing a story is no small matter, unless it becomes the daily and detailed punctuation of my endless stillness and my slow fall into this liquid pit. The enemy will be lying in wait for me unless I can make life absolutely impossible for my character. To populate my own empty space I intend to pile up corpses along my character’s way, multiply attempts on his life, drive him crazy with anonymous calls and knives planted in his bedroom door; I’ll kill everyone he’s spoken to, even the courteous hotel cashier. I’ll put Hamidou through the mill or I won’t have the courage to live. I’ll plant bombs in his entourage and to complicate matters conclusively I’ll set the Chinese onto him, a number of them and all the same: there will be Chinese on the streets of Lausanne, hordes of smiling Chinese who’ll look Hamidou in the eye. Taking a Stelazine distracted me briefly from poor Hamidou’s career. Fifteen minutes from now they’ll bring me a cold meal, and other interruptions will go on till bedtime, as I draw up the outline of a novel without continuity, lay down the unknowns of a fictitious equation, and in the end imagine some total nonsense for as long as this disorganized siege gives me a bulwark against sadness and the criminal waves that crash into me, roaring and chanting the name of the woman I love.
 
Late one winter afternoon we drove through the countryside around Acton Vale. Patches of snow on the hillsides reminded us of the dazzling snow that had enfolded our first embrace in the nondescript apartment on Côte-des-Neiges. On that lonely road which goes from Saint-Liboire to Upton and then to Acton Vale, from Acton Vale to Durham-sud, from Durham-sud to Melbourne, Richmond, Danville, Chénier, formerly known as Tingwick, we talked to each other, my love. For the first time we mingled our two lives in a river of inspiration that still flows in me this afternoon between the shattered shores of Lac Léman. It’s in the area of this invisible lake that I’ll set my story, it’s into the very waters of the extended Rhône that I plunge, tirelessly seeking my own cadaver. The quiet road from Acton Vale to Durhamsud is the end of the world. Thrown off track, I descend into myself but I can’t find my way. Imprisoned in a clinical submarine, I’m engulfed by a deathly uncertainty. The only thing that’s certain now is your secret name, your warm, wet mouth, your amazing body I reinvent again and again with less precision and more passion. I count the days I have to live without you and my chances of finding you again after I’ve wasted all that time: how can I avoid doubt? How can I avoid choosing suicide over this atrocious erosion? Everything from the past is crumbling. I lose all notion of the time of passion, I even lose any awareness of my slow escape, for I have no point of reference to help me measure my speed. Nothing is hardening outside my window: characters and memories are liquefied in the pointless splendour of the alpine lake where I try to find my words. I’ve already spent twenty-two days away from your resplendent body. I have sixty more days of underwater residence before I resume our interrupted embrace or set out again on the road to prison. For now, I’m at a table at the bottom of Lac Léman, plunged into its fluid sphere of influence which supplants my subconscious, joining my own depression to the languid depression of the Cimbrian Rhône, my imprisonment to the widening of its shores. I’m attending my own resolution. I inspect the ripples, keep an eye on everything that happens here; I listen at the doors of the Lausanne Palace and I’m wary of the Alps. In Vevey the other night, I stopped for a beer at the Café Vaudois. As I was skimming through the paper, I saw a brief item I tore out when no one was looking. It read: “Tuesday, August 1, the distinguished professor H. de Heutz of the University of Basel will speak on ‘Caesar and the Helvetians,’ under the auspices of the Société d’Histoire de la Suisse romande, 7 rue Jacques-Dalcroze, Geneva. Shortly before the vernal equinox in the year 58, the Helvetians had grouped north of Lac Léman to prepare for a mass exodus towards transalpine Gaul. This concentration, carried out a few miles from Genaba (now Geneva), intending to cross the Rhône over that city’s bridge, thereby encroaching on the integrity of transalpine Gaul, determined Caesar’s behaviour. The war between Caesar and the courageous Helvetians will be the subject of the presentation by the eminent Professor H. de Heutz.” Mystified by this speech and by the subtle correlation I’ve detected between that chapter of Swiss history and certain features of my own story, I stuffed the notice in my wallet and promised myself that I’d go to Geneva on August 1 and kill some time by killing several thousand Helvetians with beacons just to keep in practice.
 
Daylight is fading. The tall trees that line the Institute grounds are bombarded by light. Never have they appeared so cruel to me and never have I felt so much like a prisoner. Troubled, too, by what I’m writing, I’m very weary and tempted to give in to inertia the way one gives in to a fascination. Why should I go on writing and what shall I say? Why draw curves on paper when I long to go out, to stroll, to run towards the woman I love, to abolish myself in her and sweep her away with me into my resurrection and towards death? No, I no longer know why I’m writing this puzzle while I suffer and the hydrous vise is tightening over my temples till it crushes my few remaining memories. Something inside me is threatening to explode. There are more and more cracking sounds, foreshadowing a seismic event that my scattered activities can no longer keep at bay. Two or three censored novels can’t distract me from the free world I see out my window, from which I’m excluded. Volume ix of the complete works of Balzac is particularly discouraging. “In Paris under the Empire thirteen men met, all struck by the same sentiment, all energetic enough to follow the same line of thinking, political enough to conceal the sacred bonds that united them . . .” I stop here. The opening sentence of the Story of the Thirteen slays me; that dazzling beginning makes me want to end my own cumulative prose, just as it reminds me of the sacred bonds, now broken by isolation, that once joined me to my revolutionary brothers. I have nothing to gain from going on writing. But I go on anyway, though I’m writing at a loss. No, that’s a lie: for the past few minutes I’ve known perfectly well that I will gain something from this game, I’ll gain time: an interval I cover with erasures and phonemes, fill with syllables and howls, cram with all my acknowledged atoms, multiples of a totality they’ll never equal. I compose in highly automatic writing and while I’m spelling myself, I avoid homicidal lucidity. I dazzle myself with words. And I drift complacently because this procedure lets me gain in minutes what I lose proportionately in despair. I stuff the page with mental mincemeat, I cram it to the bursting point with syntax, I pound at the naked paper, I can barely keep from writing with both hands at once, so I’ll think less. And suddenly I land on my feet, safe and sound but drained, tired as an invalid after the crisis. Now that the deed is done and Balzac eliminated, the pain of vainly desiring the woman I love avoided, now that I’ve chopped my fury into devalued notions, I feel rested and I can look at the submerged landscape, I can count the trees I no longer see, recollect the names of the streets in Lausanne. I can easily recall the smell of fresh paint in my cell at the Montreal Prison and the stench of the Municipal Police cubicles. Now that I’m feeling free and easy, I let incoherence take hold of me again; I give in to that improvised stream, renouncing more from laziness than principle the premeditated plotting of a genuine novel. Real novels I leave to the real novelists. As for me, I flatly refuse to bring algebra into my invention. Condemned to a certain ontological incoherence, I take my stand. I’m even turning it into a system with an immediate application that I decree. Infinite I shall be, in my own way and in the literal sense. I won’t leave a system I create for the sole purpose of never leaving it. As a matter of fact I’m not leaving anything, not even here. I’m caught, compressed inside a hermetically sealed glass booth. From my prison window I can see a red van – how suspicious! – that reminds me of another red van that was parked on Pine Avenue one morning outside the porte-cochère of the Mount Royal Fusiliers. But now the red stain is moving away and disappearing into the darkness, depriving me of a bracing memory. Bye bye Mount Royal Fusiliers. Farewell to arms! That unexpected play on words gets me down: I feel like dissolving into tears, I’m not sure why. All those weapons stolen from the enemy, hidden and then discovered in sorrow one by one, all those weapons! And I who am disarmed here for having held a weapon, disarmed as well before the idling sun as it quietly sets behind Île Jésus! If I give in to the twilight again, I won’t be able to hold my position for very long or to manoeuvre serenely in the stagnant waters of fiction. If I look at the vanished sun again, I won’t have the strength to bear the time I saw passing between you and me, between our two bodies stretched out on the calendar of spring and summer, then suddenly broken at the beginning of Cancer. I must close my eyes, tighten my grip on the pen, not give in to the pain, not believe in miracles or in the litanies I utter every night beneath the sheet, not invoke your name, my love. I mustn’t speak it aloud, write it on this paper, sing it, cry it. I must silence it and let my heart break.
 
I’m breathing through lungs of steel. What comes to me from outside is filtered, drained of oxygen and nothingness, making me more frail. I’m subjected to a psychiatric evaluation before being sent to trial. But I know that this very expertisecontains an unspoken assumption that confers legitimacy on the system I’m fighting and a pathological connotation on my own undertaking. Psychiatry is the science of individual imbalance enclosed within a flawless society. It enhances the standing of conformists and the well-integrated, not those who refuse; it glorifies all forms of civil obedience and acceptance. It’s not just solitude I’m battling here, but the clinical imprisonment that casts doubt on my effectiveness as a revolutionary.
 
I might as well reread Balzac! I want to identify with Ferragus, to live magically the story of a man condemned by society, yet capable on his own of standing up to the police stranglehold and avoiding capture by mimicking it, both its dual nature and its constant shifting and moving. I’ve dreamed about that, too, about fleeing to a different apartment every day, dressing in my hosts’ clothes, concealing my escapes in a ritual of parades and productions. Because I draped myself unwittingly in Ferragus’s spotted garments, today I’m in a clinic under surveillance after an inglorious stay in the Montreal Prison. It all seems to me like a tremendous act of cheating, including my pain when I confess it. The deeper I sink into disenchantment, the more I discover the arid soil where for years I thought I saw a mythical vegetation spring up, a true hallucinatory debauchery, a flowering of falsehood and style to mask a plain that had been close-cropped, shattered, burned by the sun of lucidity and boredom: myself! Now the truth won’t let me seed it with a forest of calyxes. My own face, unveiled once and for all, terrifies me. Having come here as a prisoner, I feel myself sicken from day to day. Nothing feeds my soul any more: no starry night transmutes my desert into sheets of shadow and mystery. Nothing offers me distraction or some substitute euphoria. Everything abandons me at the speed of light, all the membranes break, allowing the precious blood to seep away.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

close this panel
On the Proper Use of Stars
Excerpt

The sun was shining on that 19th day of May in 1845 when the Erebus and the Terror were preparing to cast off at Greenhithe, their reflections shivering on the greenish water of the port where floated garlands, handfuls of rice, and small dead fish. A crowd of a good ten thousand was assembled on the docks to witness the departure of Sir John Franklin, hero of the Arctic, who was setting off once again to conquer the mythic Northwest Passage, as always for the greater glory of the Empire. On the deck of the Erebus, in full regalia, the explorer was holding aloft a coloured handkerchief so that his wife Jane, Lady Franklin, could easily make him out in the midst of his inferiors, who were waving handkerchiefs of black silk. A brass band struck up the first bars of “God Save the Queen,” the chords joining the cheers and farewells; emotion was nearly at its peak. One might have thought, as a shrewd observer noted in the newspaper the following day, that England was celebrating the explorer’s triumphant return, not his departure. A dove flew lazily across the sky and touched down on the mast of the Terror, observing all the agitation with its head tipped a little to one side before settling comfortably, as if to hatch an egg. All agreed that it was a good omen.
 
Then the ships lumbered off to tackle unknown seas. The spectators went home. The hero of the Arctic, who was having difficulty recovering from a nasty bout of influenza, descended to his cabin, where he sipped a little tea and before long dozed off. Soon sailors, aides, and officers from the two ships returned to their respective posts. On the deck of the Terror, Francis Crozier, second-in- command of the expedition and commander of the aforementioned ship, stood alone, looking back at the V-shaped wake left in the water. Hearing a muffled sound behind him on the deck, he turned around and nearly stepped on the dove, which had tumbled from the mast. He took one wing between his thumb and forefinger: still warm, the limp bird stared at him with its round eyes. Quite unceremoniously Crozier flung the creature into the sea. The surgeon’s dog, Neptune, a rather ungainly mixture of beagle and wolfhound, pretended for a moment that he wanted to dive in after the bird, but changed his mind and proceeded instead to circle three times before he lay down on the deck and let out a loud fart.

25 May 1845
 
Scarcely one week has gone by since we weighed anchor, and the country that I left seems now to be farther away than the Moon and the stars above our heads, ever the same and ever different.
 
The sea is calm and the ships are sound. The Terror is my oldest friend, perhaps my only friend on this voyage when I cannot count on the presence of Ross, with whom I crossed the boundaries of Antarctica and into whose hands I would have agreed without hesitation to place my life once more. I insisted in vain that we have on board some of those whalers who know the treacherous waters of the Arctic better than any lieutenant of the British Navy, brave men to whom we owe most of the discoveries of this land of ice. Alas, the crew put together by Fitzjames is in the image of the man who chose it: elegant, enthusiastic, sure of itself, but sorely lacking in experience. Of the twenty-one officers – in the exclusive service of whom there are no fewer than eight men who I hope will not balk when the time comes that they must pull off their white gloves to scrub the deck or to furl the sails – only Sir John, the two ice masters, and I myself have ventured before into one or the other of the Polar circles. The most curious know nothing of the Arctic, may God have mercy upon us, save what they have read in the accounts of Parry and of Franklin himself, of which they recite passages with the same fervour as if they were verses of the Gospels. They are excited, like schoolboys being taken to the circus.
 
Scarcely one week and three times I have been summoned to dine on board the Erebus, Sir John seeming to believe that his duties include planning exquisite suppers and seeing to it that his officers do not suffer from boredom. In the morning he has brought to me small cards upon which it is written in careful script that “Sir John Franklin, Captain of the Erebus, requests the honour of the presence at his table of Francis Crozier, Captain of the Terror” – as if I were likely to confuse him with the captain of another vessel and present myself mistakenly on a ship where I was not expected. The men who are to bring him my reply wait, soaking wet, apparently astounded at such elaborate courtesies, while I turn the card over to write my answer, following which they row back in order to deliver the precious bit of paper. I must recommend that the lookouts agree upon a code so as to avoid these jaunts that transform our seamen pointlessly into messenger boys.
 
One dines well on the Erebus. Five bullocks that accompanied us on board the Baretto Junior, the supply ship, were sacrificed in a veritable hecatomb and prepared in various fashions. Yesterday we had a sole meunière, a splendid rib roast with buttered carrots and potatoes, and custard with berries, all served on silver plates struck with the arms or the monogram of the owner. The ridiculous is not pushed to the point of requiring that I supply my own cutlery, but I do use that of Sir John, who has apparently brought more than is strictly necessary.
 
We converse cheerfully about the voyage that is beginning, as if it were a hunting expedition with hounds, though I doubt that most of these gentlemen have ever killed any game more formidable than a partridge or, possibly, a fox. Most, like DesVoeux, harbour a boundless admiration for Sir John, hero of the Arctic, whose accounts of his courageous deeds had marked their childhood, the man who ate his boots and, contrary to all expectations, had been able to survive on his own in a wild and hostile place.
 
At the sight of this happy gathering, of the valets who serve and take away the dishes under their silver lids, of the wines that accompany each new course, one might think he was at a supper at the country home of a gentleman whose livestock had experienced a particularly productive year or who had just married off his daughter. Except that there is no lady present – although it is true that they must withdraw in any case once the last bit of food has been swallowed, to leave the gentlemen to their cigars and port – and the candelabra are fixed firmly to the table, where there are silver goblets in place of crystal stemware. Without forgetting of course that once the merrymaking is over, rather than requesting that my carriage be brought, I ask for oarsmen to be called who, at the end of a voyage that can require as much as two hours on the rollers of the Atlantic, will take me back to the Terror, which I think of as the only home I’ve ever had.

close this panel
Ostend

Ostend

edition:Paperback
tagged :
More Info
Red Moon

Red Moon

edition:Paperback
tagged :
More Info
Ru

Ru

by Kim Thúy
translated by Sheila Fischman
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback Paperback
tagged :
More Info
Excerpt

I came into the world during the Tet Offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of machine guns.
 
I first saw the light of day in Saigon, where firecrackers, fragmented into a thousand shreds, coloured the ground red like the petals of cherry blossoms or like the blood of the two million soldiers deployed and scattered throughout the villages and cities of a Vietnam that had been ripped in two.
 
I was born in the shadow of skies adorned with fireworks, decorated with garlands of light, shot through with rockets and missiles. The purpose of my birth was to replace lives that had been lost. My life’s duty was to prolong that of my mother.

My name is Nguyen An T?nh, my mother’s name is Nguyen An Tinh. My name is simply a variation on hers because a single dot under the i differentiates, distinguishes, dissociates me from her. I was an extension of her, even in the meaning of my name. In Vietnamese, hers means “peaceful environment” and mine “peaceful interior.” With those almost interchangeable names, my mother confirmed that I was the sequel to her, that I would continue her story.
 
The History of Vietnam, written with a capital H, thwarted my mother’s plans. History flung the accents on our names into the water when it took us across the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago. It also stripped our names of their meaning, reducing them to sounds at once strange, and strange to the French language. In particular, when I was ten years old it ended my role as an extension of my mother.

Because of our exile, my children have never been extensions of me, of my history. Their names are Pascal and Henri, and they don’t look like me. They have hair that’s lighter in colour than mine, white skin, thick eyelashes. I did not experience the natural feelings of motherhood I’d expected when they were clamped onto my breasts at 3 a.m., in the middle of the night. The maternal instinct came to me much later, over the course of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, unexpected smiles, sudden delights.
 
Only then did I understand the love of the mother sitting across from me in the hold of our boat, the head of the baby in her arms covered with foul-smelling scabies. That image was before my eyes for days and maybe nights as well. The small bulb hanging from a wire attached to a rusty nail spread a feeble, unchanging light. Deep inside the boat there was no distinction between day and night. The constant illumination protected us from the vastness of the sea and the sky all around us. The people sitting on deck told us there was no boundary between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea. No one knew if we were heading for the heavens or plunging into the water’s depths. Heaven and hell embraced in the belly of our boat. Heaven promised a turning point in our lives, a new future, a new history. Hell, though, displayed our fears: fear of pirates, fear of starvation, fear of poisoning by biscuits soaked in motor oil, fear of running out of water, fear of being unable to stand up, fear of having to urinate in the red pot that was passed from hand to hand, fear that the scabies on the baby’s head was contagious, fear of never again setting foot on solid ground, fear of never again seeing the faces of our parents, who were sitting in the darkness surrounded by two hundred people.

Before our boat had weighed anchor in the middle of the night on the shores of Rach Gia, most of the passengers had just one fear: fear of the Communists, the reason for their flight. But as soon as the vessel was surrounded, encircled by the uniform blue horizon, fear was transformed into a hundred-faced monster who sawed off our legs and kept us from feeling the stiffness in our immobilized muscles. We were frozen in fear, by fear. We no longer closed our eyes when the scabious little boy’s pee sprayed us. We no longer pinched our noses against our neighbours’ vomit. We were numb, imprisoned by the shoulders of some, the legs of others, the fear of everyone. We were paralyzed.
 
The story of the little girl who was swallowed up by the sea after she’d lost her footing while walking along the edge spread through the foul-smelling belly of the boat like an anaesthetic or laughing gas, transforming the single bulb into a polar star and the biscuits soaked in motor oil into butter cookies. The taste of oil in our throats, on our tongues, in our heads sent us to sleep to the rhythm of the lullaby sung by the woman beside me.
 
My father had made plans, should our family be captured by Communists or pirates, to put us to sleep forever, like Sleeping Beauty, with cyanide pills. For a long time afterwards, I wanted to ask why he hadn’t thought of letting us choose, why he would have taken away our possibility of survival. I stopped asking myself that question when I became a mother, when Dr. Vinh, a highly regarded surgeon in Saigon, told me how he had put his five children, one after the other, from the boy of twelve to the little girl of five, alone, on five different boats, at five different times, to send them off to sea, far from the charges of the Communist authorities that hung over him. He was certain he would die in prison because he’d been accused of killing some Communist comrades by operating on them, even if they’d never set foot in his hospital. He hoped to save one, maybe two of his children by launching them in this fashion onto the sea. I met Dr. Vinh on the church steps, which he cleared of snow in the winter and swept in the summer to thank the priest who had acted as father to his children, bringing up all five, one after the other, until they were grown, until the doctor got out of prison.
 
I didn’t cry out and I didn’t weep when I was told that my son Henri was a prisoner in his own world, when it was confirmed that he is one of those children who don’t hear us, don’t speak to us, even though they’re neither deaf nor mute. He is also one of those children we must love from a distance, neither touching, nor kissing, nor smiling at them because every one of their senses would be assaulted by the odour of our skin, by the intensity of our voices, the texture of our hair, the throbbing of our hearts. Probably he’ll never call me maman lovingly, even if he can pronounce the word poire with all the roundness and sensuality of the oi sound. He will never understand why I cried when he smiled for the first time. He won’t know that, thanks to him, every spark of joy has become a blessing and that I will keep waging war against autism, even if I know already that it’s invincible. Already, I am defeated, stripped bare, beaten down.
 

close this panel
Some Night My Prince Will Come

Some Night My Prince Will Come

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Talking Bodies

Talking Bodies

edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
More Info
The Bicycle Eater

The Bicycle Eater

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
The Black Notebook

The Black Notebook

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
The Blue Notebook

The Blue Notebook

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
The Duchess and the Commoner

The Duchess and the Commoner

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant

The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
The First Quarter of the Moon

The First Quarter of the Moon

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
The Heart Laid Bare

The Heart Laid Bare

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
The Hockey Sweater

The Hockey Sweater

by Roch Carrier
translated by Sheila Fischman
illustrated by Sheldon Cohen
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : hockey
More Info
The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories

The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories

by Roch Carrier
introduction by Dave Bidini
translated by Sheila Fischman
More Info
The Obese Christ

The Obese Christ

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
More Info
The Painter's Wife

The Painter's Wife

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
The Red Notebook

The Red Notebook

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : lesbian
More Info
Thérèse and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel

Thérèse and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Twelve Opening Acts

Twelve Opening Acts

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Volkswagen Blues

Volkswagen Blues

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : medical
More Info
Wonder

Wonder

A Novel
edition:Paperback
tagged :
More Info
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...