Wednesday 9 January 2019

Making Mayonnaise

JC Sutcliffe reviews Éric Plamondon's novel Mayonnaise. And what an insightful review it is. Mayonnaise (focusing on American cultural icon Richard Brautigan) is the second novel in the author's '1984' trilogy, following Hungary-Hollywood Express (based on Johnny Weismuller's life). The third (forthcoming) focuses on tech guru Steve Jobs. All three are narrated by the character Gabriel Rivages. All three translated by Dimitri Nasrallah.

Here is an excerpt from the recently-published CNQ 50th anniversary issue!

"Plamondon has a knack for taking an interesting but seemingly unrelated fact, bringing it round to some meaningful aspect of Brautigan (or Rivage's) life, and turning it into a polished narrative jewel."

"While Mayonnaise is emphatically not a realist novel, its grounding in life's minutiae, along with all its random, deeply pleasing connections, ends up feeling like a kind of alternative to realism. These diverse fragments might not emulsify in the manner of mayonnaise, but they do combine into a powerful and intelligent meditation on the meaning of existence."

Esplanade's Track Record

Ian McGillis' article in last Saturday's Montreal Gazette, "Making the scene in 2019: Quebec artists to watch this year," made some very generous comments about our fiction imprint Esplanade Books, and we'd like to share them with you.

In the literary world, you don’t always see the next thing coming. Even if you’re among the select circle given to combing publishers’ catalogues and quarterly magazines, predicting who might rise from the vast pool of hopefuls can feel like a fool’s errand. So it’s nice to have a marker or two to help make it all a little less random. 

Mikella Nicol

Véhicule Press’s Esplanade Fiction imprint, currently under the stewardship of Dimitri Nasrallah, is one such standard-bearer.

As in the old days when you’d buy a record on faith if it bore the Rough Trade or Factory seal, the Esplanade brand has earned readers’ loyalty. Among the alumni are Anita Anand, Guillaume Morissette, Geneviève Pettersen, Josip Novakovich and, indeed, Nasrallah himself. This spring their ranks will be joined by 26-year-old Montrealer Mikella Nicol, who makes her English-language debut with Aphelia, a translation of her second novel, 2017’s Aphélie.

The basic setup — a 20-something graveyard-shift worker at a call centre during a summer heat wave is on the rebound from a volatile relationship — already includes at least four elements rife with dramatic portent. The catalogue description includes words like “brooding,” “millennial” and “ennui,” so as a novel of urban youth, this one sounds both timeless and bang up to date.

Its April publication is part of a bigger and heartening development whereby French-language causes célèbres are being rendered in English in less time than we’d been used to. In this case, that assignment went to fiction writer, poet and Montreal Review of Books editor Lesley Trites, indicative of another trend that sees name writers of both languages translating their fellow writers’ work.

Lesley Trites