Quebec’s fall literary season begins

The fall season in the Quebec literary world officially begins with the Leméac launch on Tuesday, and it officially ends with the closing of the Salon du livre de Montréal in November.

It’s called the rentrée littéraire, which is a term that cannot be translated exactly, or at least not elegantly, in a single word. Rentrée means re-entry, or going back, as in the rentrée scolaire, which is what happened over the past week, as children went back to school.

Not that we stopped reading over the summer, exactly, but publishers did stop publishing, more or less, and now they’re back, working flat out. Book launches here are seldom held for a specific title or author. Most publishers’ launches are for their entire fall list, all in one fell swoop, including titles not yet in print.

This is, in short, the busiest time of the year for literary publishers here, perhaps even more so than elsewhere in Canada – and elsewhere in the world – since the Quebec industry takes its lead from France in its single-minded focus on the fall. This is provoking debate among U.S. publishers weighing the pros and cons of putting so many eggs in a single literary basket.

The result, certainly, is glorious excess, as booksellers fight their way through what the Montreal daily La Presse describes as an avalanche of new titles.

Happily there are still literary journalists around whose job it is to down the reception wines and hobnob with the writers and those who promote them.

And happily this fall’s lineup includes another substantial list headlined by some of the grand old men of Quebec literature. Jacques Poulin is publishing L’homme de la Saskatchewan (Leméac), Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, Antiterre (Trois-Pistoles), the concluding volume in the Beauchemin saga, and Michel Tremblay La grande mêlée (Leméac), the final volumne of Diaspora des Desrosiers.

Younger stars who have been making their names in recent years include Dominique Fortier, whose new novel is La porte du ciel (Alto), Élise Turcotte with her first novel in nine years, Guyana (Leméac), and Hélène Rioux, author of Nuits blanches et jours de gloire (XYZ).

Élise Turcotte

Though fiction gets most of the attention from the media, this fall’s non-fiction lineup is notable for À toi, a new book by Kim Thuy co-authored by Pascal Janoviak (Libre Expression), and La gestion des produits - tome 1 (Marchand de feuilles) by psychoanalyst Maxime-Olivier Moutier. The magnum opus of the season is Pierre Nepveu’s Gaston Miron: La vie d’un homme (Boréal).

More on Nepveu’s magisterial biography – and on dazzling new fiction by Catherine Mavrikakis and newcomer Perrine Leblanc in my next post.

Linda Leith

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