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Thirteenth Issue
Volume 7, No. 1
 





features

O Mordecai, Where Art Thou?
By Juan Rodriguez


fiction

Quebecite: A Jazz Fantasia In Three Cantos
Reviewed by Kelly Murphy

A House By The Sea
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Speaking Cure
Reviewed by Mark Heffernan

The Applecross Spell
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Universal Recipients
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Black Bird
Reviewed by X.I. Selene

A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali
Reviewed by Edward R. Smith

Song For My Father
Reviewed by Mary Soderstrom

The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle
Reviewed by Kim Bourgeois

Another Book About Another Broken Heart
Reviewed by Poppy Wilkinson

Without Cease The Earth Faintly Trembles
Reviewed by Jessica Ticktin


fiction at a glance

After All!
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Moosehead Anthology #9: Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


non-fiction

Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, And The Shadows Of History
Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnston

Louis Riel
Reviewed by Philip Hawes

Tables For One: A Spanish Journal
Reviewed by Sarah Rosenfeld

Practice Imperfect
Reviewed by Joan Eyolfson Cadham

Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Reviewed by Anne Cimon

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Reviewed by Jill Rollins


non-fiction at a glance

Womankind
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

A Love Of Reading: The Second Collection
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Entering The War Zone: A Mohawk Perspective On Resisting Invasions
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Drive I-95: Exit By Exit Info, Maps, History And Trivia
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Crooked Smile
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Four Hundred Brothers And Sisters
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

After Notman: Montreal Views - A Century Apart
Reviewed by Ian McGillis



poetry

Snow Formations
Reviewed by Bert Almon

In The Worshipful Company Of Skinners
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bamboo Church
Reviewed by Bert Almon

An Abc Of Belly Work
Reviewed by Bert Almon




young readers

Emma's Story
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Fairy Ring
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Way Home
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Learning With Animals
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sink Or Swim
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Suki's Kimono
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Peter's Pixie
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A Friend For Sam
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sam's First Halloween
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Tales Of Court And Castle
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Think For Yourself: A Kid's Guide To Solving Life's Dilemmas And Other Sticky Problems
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Nellie Mcclung: Voice For The Voiceless
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte




Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Gordon Sheppard
$39.95
cloth 870 pp.
McGill-Queen's University Press 0-7735-2345-6
non-fiction

The Ultimate Act

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New Document At first glance, HA! seems daunting: 800 pages on the subject of the suicide of one of Quebec's most distinguished writers, Hubert Aquin. To Gordon Sheppard's credit, though, this book is not only readable but extremely fascinating. (It's visually stimulating, too, incorporating a wide range of complementary illustrations, maps, photographs, and reproductions of paintings, excerpts from Aquin's novels, and a fragment of his last work Obombre (Shadowcast), all of which serves to fill out the world where Aquin lived and worked.

Sheppard is an award-winning filmmaker whose friendship with Aquin came to an end on March 15, 1977, when the writer committed suicide at 48 on the grounds of Villa Maria convent school in Montreal.

Aquin was by then a well known literary figure and indépendantiste. Born in Montreal's East End in 1929, he attended l'Université de Montréal, and studied in Paris at the Institut d'Études politiques in the early 1950s. On returning to Montreal, he worked as a producer at Radio-Canada and a scriptwriter and film director at the National Film Board. In the 1960s, he became involved in the Rassemblement pour l'Indépendance nationale, and eventually joined an underground terrorist movement. In July 1964, he was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle and an illegal firearm.

While incarcerated (he was later acquitted in court), Aquin wrote his first novel Prochain Episode. Its publication in 1965 saw Aquin hailed as the great writer Quebec had been waiting for. His book broke with conventions of form and content, and was lyrical and darkly symbolic. His next novel, Trou de Mémoire, won the Governor General's Award, but Aquin turned down the prize for political reasons. By the time his fourth novel, Neige Noir, appeared in 1974, Aquin felt depleted, anxious that he had no more to write about.

HA! focuses on the last few weeks of Aquin's life. Sheppard reveals how troubled he was by Aquin's "self-murder," and how he recorded a conversation soon after the funeral with Andrée Yanacopoulo, Aquin's wife and the mother of Emmanuel, their son. It became a cathartic exercise; Sheppard continued to interview Andrée over many years, and the idea for HA! took shape.

The more or less verbatim "conversations," blending gossip and insight, are the core of this gargantuan book. Sheppard speaks with Lucille Aquin, the author's mother, and MM, his not-so-secret lover, as well as friends like writer/filmmaker Jacques Godbout, and Sheila Fischman, translator of Neige Noire (Hamlet's Twin). (One of the few to turn down Sheppard's interview request was a certain Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada.)

Like an investigator in Aquin's favourite genre, the detective novel, Sheppard goes even further, interviewing Aquin's cleaning lady, the priest who officiated at the funeral, and the coroner who was so shook up by Aquin's death that he went out and bought Neige Noire the same day to read.

Sheppard fleshes out the book with other material, some lurid, some trivial. We learn that Aquin liked to order chicken from St-Hubert Bar-B-Q, which was founded by his brother's son. More important is the vivid fictional piece that recreates the events on the day of Aquin's suicide at Villa Maria, and the distress it caused at the school among students and teachers.

Does Sheppard arrive at any conclusions? Everyone interviewed has a different view. Aquin may never have recovered from his abrupt dismissal as literary director of Éditions de la Presse. His deteriorating state of health might have pushed him over, too: Aquin had an addiction to alcohol and had developed epilepsy.

HA! cannot fully elucidate Aquin's suicide but it does pay homage to the man. It also poignantly conveys the explosive impact suicide has on family, friends, coworkers, and the community.

Anne Cimon is a Montreal writer who recently published a bilingual edition of her poetry, All We Need/Tout ce qu'il faut (Borealis Press).