SET SAIL — A resource too long believed to be inexhaustible or renewable, at once the source of life and blue gold that we snatch up even as it slips through our fingers, water has always fascinated artists. An indomitable muse, a (super)natural power, and an instrument of the sea breeze, it seeps in, imposes itself, and rises up according to lunar moods and human folly. Let’s take a moving look at five works that have made it their home port.
PAS MÊME LE BRUIT D’UN FLEUVE
by Hélène Dorion (Alto, 2020)
“By the river, we retrace the path of love and conquests; we see good and evil at the bottom of the same muddled waters of time.” A writer recognized for the fluidity of her writing and the vastness of her poetry, and the recipient of the prestigious Prix Athanase-David in 2019, Hélène Dorion navigates here between the troubled inner world of her characters and the unfathomable beauty of the elements. From Québec City to Montréal, passing through Charlevoix and the Bas-Saint-Laurent, spanning three generations and a century of large and small drifts, Hanna discovers—piece by piece—hidden parts of the existence of her recently deceased mother. “But do we ever really know the whole truth about our parents?” And can poems be lifelines when our breath runs out? In the background, the author shares the musical inspirations that accompanied her writing on Spotify. A vibrant (in)quest that leads us to the hold of the Empress of Ireland, that infamous ocean liner that sunk in 1914 near Rimouski. To tame the fog.
LA VAGUE GELÉE
by EMG (Tanibis, 2020)
An architecture graduate, French digital creator and comic book artist EMG (Tremblez enfance Z46) has created a second volume that is both puzzling and delirious. Particularly drawn to “bedetronics”—that is, deliberately computer-generated comic book artistry— he also devotes the blog Néant Horizon to this genre. In La vague gelée, the drawing appears pixelated, evokes the video games of the 1990s with its raw colours, and instills a nostalgia and strangeness that perfectly matches the mild madness of the story. Surfer Nicolas Marlin appears here in an existential defeat, while his past and his grandfather resurface on the beach in San Telmo. Army helicopters and boats disrupt his competition, and he will drink the cup not without questioning everything. In the hollow of the wave hide his deepest memories. An original discovery, imbued with fantasy and quirky humour.
NOUS SOMMES LES PROTECTEURS DE L’EAU
written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, in a French translation by Gérard Muguet in collaboration with Natasha Kanapé Fontaine (Bayard, 2021)
Inspired by the protests of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation against the construction of an oil pipeline in recent years and by the many other struggles of the Indigenous peoples of America to protect water, children’s author Carole Lindstrom, Anishinaabe/ Métis, imagines a child’s realization of the perils facing the environment. The elders have warned him that a “black snake” is threatening the planet’s ecosystem, and that it must be fought with chanting and drumming to make it listen to reason. Illustrator Michaela Goade, of the Tlingit and Haida Nations of Alaska, wonderfully translates the precious and sacred character of our interconnection with nature in a highly enveloping and gregarious fashion. If “water is the first medicine,” how will we treat the winged and crawling beings properly, “to honour Mother Earth and all her living creatures, including the water and the soil?” A life lesson and—indeed—a lives lesson!
À QUI APPARTIENT L’EAU ?
by Maude Barlow (Écosociété, 2021)
From the child who takes note of the world in which they live to the adult for whom activism is an act of survival, we sometimes feel that there is a quantum leap, and helplessness wins us over. An international authority on the issues related to the right to water, that “common good” that some monopolize like a commodity, Ontarian Maude Barlow fights on all fronts when it comes to “blocking the privatization of a vital resource”—the subtitle of her new essay. How can we oppose the Coca-Colas and the Nestlés of the world, the mining companies, and other polluting industries that pump water like there’s no tomorrow? Once she gets past the discouragement of the overwhelming observations about the shortage facing us, the septuagenarian activist tells us about the advances of the Blue Communities citizen movement, which she helped develop and which has expanded into all four corners of the globe. What if, from the bottom up, from individuals to senior executives, hope could flow by eliminating bottled water?
TOUT EST ORI
by Paul Serge Forest (VLB, 2021)
By definition, no one expects the work that wins the Prix Robert-Cliche, because it has recognized excellence in first novels since 1979. Robert Lalonde, Chrystine Brouillet, Roxanne Bouchard, and Antoine Charbonneau-Demers are among the former first-time novelists honoured. In 2021, physician Paul Serge Forest was added to the list, with a story that is controlled, saline, and highly unexpected. Hailing from Côte-Nord, he sets his irresistible plot there—more specifically, in Baie-Trinité— where the Lelarge clan sees its seafood empire shaken up by an official’s zeal, the metaphysical and blinding ambitions of a Japanese sea urchin enthusiast, and the spectre of the Prince Edward Island mussel crisis of 1987! Interspersed with juicy interludes about the delicacies of the sea that would make Charles Tisseyre blush, this story undoubtedly stands out through its dark humour, its dishevelled figureheads, and its uninhibited celebration of fluids of all sorts. Tasty as can be.