About the Author

Hugh Hazelton

Hugh Hazelton is a Montreal writer and translator who specializes in the comparison of Canadian and Quebec literatures with those of Latin America. He has written four books of poetry and translates from Spanish, French and Portuguese into English; his translation of Vétiver, a book of poems by Joël Des Rosiers, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French-English translation in 2006. He is a professor emeritus of Spanish at Concordia University in Montreal and former co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. In 2016 he won the Linda Gaboriau Award for his work on behalf of literary translation in Canada.

Books by this Author
Latinocanadá

Latinocanadá

A Critical Study of Ten Latin American Writers of Canada
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Cloudburst

Cloudburst

An Anthology of Hispanic Canadian Short Stories
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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All Is Flesh

All Is Flesh

edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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All is Flesh ebook

All is Flesh ebook

edition:eBook
tagged : canadian
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Silver

Silver

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : satire, literary
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Vetiver
Excerpt

"Cayenne"

she spoke with a certain absence in her gestures saying she wanted a dedication and that she’d been spying on me long before I arrived in Cayenne because she’d found out the names of the writers who’d been invited and had copied my photograph as well as the uselessly flattering biographical note that she got off an Internet site and that photograph she said the one in which I wore a bow tie that looked like it had been tied by hand had inspired her to write letters that she addressed to me but could never bring herself to send because her thoughts had gotten away from her and in her opinion it was horrible to write only for oneself and not send off the letters to their recipient and so risk leaving them without even an echo

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she said she’d gone to the first book fair ever held in Cayenne to meet me in person unlike all those people who press forward without looking or linger around the books alone or with their families enthusiastic or indifferent silent or garrulous at times without any other reason than simply to be seen there she came herself for a specific reason to ask me to dedicate a book to her

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because I was she said according to the biographical notes she’d attentively read both a doctor and a writer and my double profession conferred on me in her eyes an exquisite understanding of people in other words a knowledge of pain because I looked at them with one eye on their life and the other on their death and adding literature to medicine forced me to give people back the insidious gift I had received of their suffering she said that by delving into that space beyond their bodies and their souls I revealed to others and especially to her my immense desire to heal and that this understanding of others presupposed a fascination with misfortune that she had no trouble understanding and that was enough for her to trust me

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she said that was the main reason she’d spoken to me and for the sake of which she asked me to be truthful that is to write just for her on a card with a reproduction of a painting by Matisse which she’d specifically brought with her and now placed upon the table next to the pile of books a sort of portrait a dedication that would show her truth light and shadow she said which I was most certainly capable of drawing out from her from the first time I set eyes on her from our very first encounter an immemorial nameless thing that would set her apart from the people around her and that I shouldn’t avoid her request and that although she was for me a kind of stranger this shouldn’t provide me with any excuses because when you really thought about it what she was asking me for didn’t have to be that personal

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even though she hadn’t yet read a single one of my books she said that my voice which she’d heard on Radio France International during the program on visiting writers had crept into her mind strangely enough not so much for what it actually contained as for the language that carried it along and more important than the features of my face which she had already perfectly memorized in order to recognize me she had observed the liberated way I moved on television my origins gave me away she said as I strolled through Place des Palmistes but what she’d appreciated most of all was the mixture of intelligence and humour in the comments I made on the architecture of creole houses adorned with wrought-iron balconies when the afternoon light made them seem unreal she said she’d told herself now here’s a writer who finally doesn’t take himself too seriously

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she said she had only been in Cayenne for a short time that she had lived before in the 16th arrondissement in Paris and that she’d come to French Guiana just for a change perhaps out of nonconformity or because she was bored and most probably for some reason still unknown to her she said that even supposing I had wanted to I couldn’t have avoided her request I was neither a real writer nor a true doctor or else if I’d risked embarking on both professions which seemed so opposed to one another it was because she said I felt free enough of any double association sufficiently carried along by my double vocation to answer this kind of question and because she calculated on observing my photo that behind a sad smile I was trying to hide a kind of melancholy that was concealed in my eyes

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she said that on account of my destiny I led a double life the risks of which I should accept including that of granting her wish and that a true writer (which wasn’t necessarily what I was) had the capacity to sound out souls to be able to feel like others the excessive love that threatens the devastation of feelings that don’t by rights belong to it and that it’s from this ability that the writer draws the sense of his existence and what’s more she said if I were a true physician I wouldn’t have the slightest chance of escaping her wish because she could be ill she could be in pain she could be in distress even without knowing it and her desire despite the unusualness of the situation could correspond perfectly to a symptom a sign even if she wouldn’t dream of expressing it that way of the upheaval of time and of her way of living triggered by my presence she said she’d never felt such desire for a dedication

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