Aurora Montrealis / Monique Proulx; translated from the French by Matt Cohen.
Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, c1997.
I've really enjoyed many of Proulx's works before; her Wildlives was a top read of 2012 for me. So I was eager to read this collection of very short stories, all showing a different facet of the great city of Montreal.
And I did enjoy it, overall, though there were some flaws that kept it from reaching the level of a favourite read. Proulx takes many different perspectives in this book -- from young people to older, all classes, male and female; there's one story from the perspective of a middle-aged black man, followed by one narrated by a young Native character. Neither of these worked for me. They made me uncomfortable reading them somehow. I'm glad she was thinking of diversity in her presentation, but I just didn't feel convinced by the characters, and thought perhaps they didn't ring as true as some of the others.
There were also a couple of stories in which Quebec separatism was a strong theme. It shows the core beliefs and attitudes of the "yes" side, which is important, I think. But there was a noticeable lack of characters from English Montreal as the teller of a story, despite the wide variety of angles for the stories. I'd have liked to see even one, as Anglos are also a vital Montreal community. But then I suppose English writers can take that on.
Anyhow, there were a lot of her regular themes woven into this collection, which I enjoyed seeing again, and her writing is always interesting. I also liked that many of the stories were very brief, allowing just a glimpse into a life, as if you are just passing by this person and will only ever get a peek into their thoughts. It allowed me to pick up and put down this book in between other reading and still feel like I was following along nicely. I think this is a clever way to approach a big city made up mainly of small neighbourhoods.
If you like short stories, give this one a try. I'd recommend her novels as a first experience of her writing, though; Wildlives (which I've mentioned) or The Heart Is an Involuntary Muscle, the two I've read so far, were both a little more engaging than this collection.
I hadn't registered this volume of hers before. And how interesting that Matt Cohen translated it. I've read and loved The Heart is an Involuntary Muscle (so delightfully bookish) and I keep meaning to read more, but you know how it goes....ReplyDelete
Yes, I was surprised to see him as translator. I've only read her later novels which I think are better, but I was still glad to have finally read this off my shelves.Delete
I'll have to check this author out...just not her short stories (mostly because I'm not a huge fan of short stories). Hey, have you ever read Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir? It's set in Montreal, too, and I think I almost liked it more for the setting than for the mystery, with all the little history and details of Quebec and Montreal that was interspersed with the plot.ReplyDelete
Yes, her novels were more engaging, I thought -- especially Wildlives with its Harry Potter connection :)ReplyDelete
I have read Asylum, which I thought was entertaining enough, but I was put off by the errors like calling the prime minister the premier of Canada...copyediting needed ;) I do like the way that John McFetridge's Montreal mysteries really contain those small details of Montreal history as well.
I'll have to read some of his mysteries. :) Thanks.Delete
Are these stories more akin to flash fiction as opposed to full stories? Sometimes, when there are too many very short stories in a collection, I find it's terribly difficult to remember many of them! --grabthelapels.comReplyDelete
I wouldn't call these flash fiction -- but there are some awfully short ones that aren't all that memorable. No one pagers though.Delete
I’m wondering if, in 2022, much of this work would be considered cultural appropriation, at least in English Canada.ReplyDelete
Maybe that was a part of why those particular stories I noted didn't work - not really authentic voices.Delete