An invigorating evolution is occurring in authors – newcomers and seasoned writers alike – who dare to leave their comfort zone and look elsewhere for inspiration. And found it.
The solitude of prime numbers, by Paolo Giordano (Pamela Dorman Books, 2010, originally published in 2008 as La solitudine dei numeri primi)
Ten years after this astounding novel appeared in its original version, it has been translated into approximately twenty languages and has been adapted for cinema. Paolo Giordano is a doctor of physics and was drawn to literature at the age of 25, transferring his love of science and mathematics into this unusual sentimental story. Through a methodical language in which impulses wage a fierce war on reason, we follow the intertwined destinies of Alice and Mattia who, following a childhood trauma, take refuge in the reassuring shapes of numbers. She develops a fixation for the calories she ingests; he is a math whiz and is convinced that he represents one of the twin prime numbers, and therefore has a soul mate somewhere, despite his loneliness. A bittersweet reflection on the bubbles we create for ourselves or dream of popping.
Hunting houses, by Fanny Britt (House of Anansi, 2017, originally published in 2015 as Les maisons)
A celebrated playwright (Bienveillance, Cinq à sept, Hurlevents) and translator, essayist and screenwriter, Fanny Britt wrote her first novel in 2015, which, with its classic chronicles of routine and adultery, captured many by its unsuspected consequences. Tessa, a real estate agent and a seemingly fulfilled mother, sees her fragile equilibrium compromised by a transaction involving a former lover she has never forgotten. Wounds are reopened, and grief from three decades of underlying memories resurfaces. In the background, the walls and roofs that surround our everyday lives show us a reflection – misleading or revealing – of what we are or could be, living at the right address. But does it really exist? A straightforward written story, filled with humour and tenderness, to better see through the window of the heart.
Toi aussi, mon fils, by Jonathan Pedneault (XYZ Éditeur, 2017, currently published in French only)
Marked among other things by the death of fellow journalists in Syria, as well as by his own experiences in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, Jonathan Pedneault, a young researcher and documentary filmmaker has ventured for the first time into the territory of fiction, not without marking it with several parts of raw reality, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With its breath of contemporary tragedy, Toi aussi, mon fils is a compilation of blood and sweat, tormented nights and swallowed hopes. Just recently having become a father himself, Matisse is immersing himself in his father Antoine’s diary, a former war reporter. The filial love takes a beating, and cynicism gradually destroys any trace of idealism, through a haunting fresco where man often makes himself very small in wanting to wear a big M. Disturbing and confusing.
Noms fictifs, by Olivier Sylvestre (Hamac, 2017, currently published in French only)
Trained in criminology and dramatic writing, Olivier Sylvestre has led two parallel lives for a long time: that of a playwright and that of a drug abuse interventionist in a respite centre. This hybrid book, at the same time a diary, a vibrant docufiction and poetic snapshots, marks a turning point in his career, as he leaves behind ten years of intervention practice to devote himself to writing. Bob, Avril, Puck and other people parade around like so many other anonymous faces of addiction or despair that came to the centre to find an attentive ear or condoms, a hot shower or lasagna. And yet, under Sylvestre’s lucid and benevolent gaze, their blurred characteristics reveal themselves to us in the way of beauty or fury. These addicts are standing right next to us, craving their dose of humanity.
Moi, figuier sous la neige, by Elkahna Talbi (Mémoire d’encrier, 2017, currently published in French only)
Better known by her stage name Queen Ka, an established Spoken word artist, Elkahna Talbi presents her first collection of poetry, between two cultures and two continents. Born in Quebec to Tunisian parents, she is inventing her own “land of maple and sand”, to better describe the disillusionment of rootedness, the unrestrained beauty of expatriation, until the “wonder of the beginnings”. She is asking herself if the impulses of the heart are cultural? Can one suitcase hold all her belongings? Is there a faith free from customs, beyond all borders? And how can we calm the rebellions if not by discussing the weather forecast? With a lot of spirit, unknown scents and familiar notes, Talbi invites the reader to participate in her quest for a country without passport or flag, a kind of “Carthage-en-Québec” where the souk and the Jean-Talon market would be one.
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