Five books to lose yourself in the great white North
Winter and the cold temperatures occupy the imagination of everyone who grows up in Quebec or on boreal soil. And the following authors didn’t need to be convinced to come up with their own plans “to get lost” in the great white North. A refreshing foray into unknown territory.
Operation Napoleon, by Arnaldur Indridason (Penguin Random House Canada, 2011)
Especially known for the investigations of inspector Erlendur Sveinsson (Silence of the grave, Oblivion), the author who is nicknamed “master of the Icelandic fictional crime stories” has also written some outstanding novels, including Operation Napoleon, published in 1999 but translated into English for the first time in 2011. World War II is coming to an end when a German bomber with Nazi officers on board disappears on the Vatnajökull, an immense glacier that accounts for 8% of Iceland’s surface area. Half a century later, the aircraft resurfaces on radar screens. The US Army has the intention of doing everything in its control – and God knows they have all the power – to destroy the cargo. A lawyer from Reykjavik with an overdeveloped maternal instinct is trying to block the way. A sometimes incredible conspiracy haunting the mind by asking a nagging question: who is writing the story? The winners, the dictators, or maybe even Neil Armstrong?
Nirliit, by Juliana Léveillé-Trudel (La Peuplade Books, 2015)
While opening a day camp for children in Nunavik, where she has been faithfully helping as an animator in summers, Juliana Léveillé-Trudel writes an impressive first novel that is built on fragments of life that are as beautiful as they are painful. Narrated in two parts and from the author’s point of view, Nirliit first evokes the fate of Eva, who disappeared without a trace, beyond doubt in the waters of the fjord, and that of her son Elijah, a young father, who every spring still hears “the voice of (his) mother screaming louder than the crashing of the ice”. And through them, we discover in the village of Salluit located at the 62nd parallel, a gallery of complex and at the same time very endearing characters that are all the more lovable between the “us” and the “them”, and for whom “good-byes are often “farewells in disguise”. A lamenting love story to the North and the Inuit who give it a proud and rough soul.
Norge, by Kevin McCoy (L’Instant même, from the “L’instant scène” collection, 2016)
Norge not only means “the way to the North” in Norwegian, but is also the country of birth of Kevin McCoy’s grandmother. McCoy is a man of the theatre from Chicago who moved to Quebec City in 1996. In the spring of 2015 while he was an artist-in-residence at the Théâtre du Trident he drew from his rich life experience and created a very personal piece, which reads like a travel notebook, but is also a touching story of his quest to find his family’s origins. Drawing parallels between the land of his ancestors, where winter is dominated by total blackness, and his adopted home land Quebec, where “snow is a state of mind”, McCoy investigates his past with humor and finesse. During his pilgrimage between Chicago, Quebec and Oslo, he invites some of his most famous compatriots (Grieg the musician, Munch the painter and Ibsen the playwright) along the way. A mildly dizzying story.
Traité des peaux, by Catherine Harton (Éditions Marchand de feuilles, 2015)
A finalist of the Governor General’s Literary Awards in 2015, this collection of short stories deploys its evocative power similar to the subtle scents of spruce, white birch and humus in a forest. Catherine Harton offers us a real immersion into three distinct territories: Greenland, Nunavik and Quebec. Nature is omnipresent thanks to tales of hunting and fishing and a prowling bear, and at its center mankind who dominates, marries or fears it. The author draws as much from the source of legends as from the real dramas that affect the aboriginal communities, such as the looting of their resources and the ghosts of the missing women. The salvation of the soul – and the human being – is taking on all shapes possible: a child’s drawing, a seal skin, winter or the silhouettes of whales. Eliminating our prejudices and, above all, humanizing the distance.
La lune est blanche, by François and Emmanuel Lepage (Futuropolis, 2014)
Let’s cheat a little, because what is more Nordic than…. the South Pole! Known for his comic books Les fleurs de Tchernobyl and Voyage aux iles de la Désolation, cartoonist Emmanuel Lepage recruits his brother François, a professional photographer, for a unique adventure on the sixth continent, the Antarctica. Through their knowledgeable eyes and their keen sense of fraternity, they go back to the beginnings of the conquest of this “ultimate white desert” in the 19th and 20th century and bring to live on paper the passionate biologists, meteorologists, mechanics etc. that live at the French Polar Institute. At the same time they learn the hard way and through broken dreams that exploring and being in the Antarctica is a privilege and needs to be earned. A perfect book for the people interested in expeditions and scientific popularization, with captivating landscape photographs as an added bonus.
by Nicolas Gendron
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