Between what soothes us and what torments us, between what makes us up and what surrounds us, between what separates us and what connects us, care is a kind of food for the soul. Whether it is associated with well-being or mental health, our interpersonal relationships or our ecological aspirations, it is everywhere and nowhere all at once, hoped for, neglected, cultivated… Its virtues often seem invisible. Here are five titles bathed in reality that strive to make them tangible to us.
… off silence
Les rois du silence by Olivier Niquet (Ta Mère, 2022)
A radio personality recognized for his loquaciousness for the least measured, Olivier Niquet wanted to celebrate the great family of introverts in writing, because it is well known that whoever does not write a word consents. Revealed by Le Sportnographe and dedicated to La soirée, and now La journée – est (encore) jeune, the commentator here embraces the recurring gags at his expense to reflect quietly and distinguish introversion from social phobia, extol their complementary virtues with the group of extroverts—amusingly advantaged on the social scale, because it seems to him that they are more “socially desirable”—and assess the value of an opinion, to say nothing of outrage. With the help of sociological studies and Reddit comments, apocryphal quotations and rampant self-deprecation, Niquet offers himself up as a case study who lives in harmony with his discreet nature, still preferring humour to mood. What if some people learned to be quiet sometimes so that the silence of others would resonate?
… off dialogue
Baldwin, Styron et moi by Mélikah Abdelmoumen (Mémoire d’encrier, 2021)
Editor-in-chief of the Lettres québécoises magazine, Mélikah Abdelmoumen has undoubtedly written one of the most nuanced essays of this young decade. Born in Chicoutimi to a Tunisian father and a mother from Saguenay and having spent a good portion of her adult life in Lyon before returning to Montreal, the author has had many opportunities to dwell on the multiple contours of identity, whether we are analyzing nationalist façades or the rootedness of the heart. Here, she recounts the unlikely friendship between two major American writers of the 20th century, James Baldwin (Going to Meet the Man) and Willian Styron (Sophie’s Choice)—one the grandson of a slave, the other the grandson of a mas- ter—and how a case of cultural appropriation shook them and united them in the late 1960s. On the fine line between the legitimate anger and the empathy inherent to literature, she builds a solid bridge between yesterday’s fiction and today’s burning questions, so that the dialogue is never broken.
… of the self
Self-care, collective under the guidance of Nicholas Dawson (Hamac, 2021)
“Who is the self in self-care?” rightly asks Zishad Lak, one of the 11 voices brought together in this collective under the sign of introspection and the affirmation of scars. In a society where taking the time to treat your ailments is not accessible to everyone due to a lack of money, resources, or references, self- care can quickly become synonymous with privilege. What, then, of our blind spots and our survival instincts, of our traumas like our secret gardens? In fundamentally free forms that match the continuous flow of thoughts, but also meditative or creative breathing, these personal offerings written in the midst of the pandemic celebrate the singularity of the journeys and the strength of relationships, like “a political declaration of benevolence and solidarity” desired by Nicholas Dawson, “so that taking care of yourself means that, together, we take care of ourselves.”
… of others
Soigner, aimer by Ouanessa Younsi (Mémoire d’encrier, 2016)
The lucidity and unique style of Ouanessa Younsi (Métissée, the Femmes rapaillées col- lective) first struck me in the aforementioned Self-care, in which her dual vocation as poet and psychiatrist gives rise to reflections that are as vast as they are intimate. I immediately wanted to discover her essay on care, Soigner, aimer, which testifies, in the form of a poetic notebook, to her medicinal practice: from Sept- Îles, where she “draws a need for shoulders,” to Val-d’Or, where she examines a patient like “an oyster stingy with its pearls,” and finally to Kuujjuaq, where a glass of water becomes a strong human binding agent. She masterfully dissects the humility that her profession demands, “the madness that is not [always] disease,” and the role of writing, which allows her to “better support others,” and she opens up in passing on mourning her grandmother and on her own flaws. Since, after all, “Caring, writing, [would this be] the making love of fragility?” The essay boasts a restorative power.
…of the environment
La méthode Y by Louis-Philippe Pratte (Cardinal, 2022)
A defrocked automotive designer, Louis-Philippe Pratte lost his desire to grease the consumerist wheel when he became aware that the indus- try to which he was prepared to devote his life was undoubtedly selling the “ultimate gadget,” that which turns out to be obsolete as soon as it arrives on the market because the next model has already been planned. He in no way excludes himself from the critique that he develops in the first part of his story, La méthode Y, the subtitle of which translates as Thinking and Living Deconsumerism and calls for small revolutions. To do this, he has imagined “the design of a new life” through the symbol of the Y. Its two branches embody the paths of reduction and union—or of sharing, connection—while its base tends toward an ideal of verticality, where the ego gives way to the “eco.” All green and white, visually pared down, but filled with simple, striking examples, this noble guide to austerity takes us from guilt to action.