This is the fourth in a series of interviews with people who are closely involved with Quebec literature on a daily basis. In the future, we hope to talk to more publishers, readers, bookstore owners, and translators to get a feel for today’s publishing scene in Quebec.
Andrew Greenfield is an avid reader, and is passionate about books. He moved to Quebec City in early 2009, and lives there with his wife and children. He runs La Bouquinerie Anglaise, an English bookstore, and publishes Life in Québec Magazine, and LifeinQuebec.com, both of which provide news and information in English about the region. He is also the owner of Les Services Emchar inc., an Emploi-Québec accredited language school that delivers English courses to the business community, government departments, and the general public. The company also provides translation services.
What is your relationship to Quebec writing?
One of my companies runs a bookstore, so we definitely sell books. We don’t necessarily focus on Quebec literature in the store as it’s an English bookstore, but there are some great Quebec authors who have had work published in English, and they do sell well. My other company publishes magazines, books, and websites, so I’d say we’re actively involved in promoting the written word across Quebec. Our imprint, Blue Ice Books, published Ross Murray’s second book, a collection of newspaper and radio columns from the Eastern Townships. Our first print run sold out almost immediately, with all Indigo Chapter’s stores across the province taking copies.
What, if anything, would you say defines Quebec literature?
Tough one to answer. There’s a diverse range or work out there. You do see a big focus on the historical side, though. Perhaps that has something to do with conserving the language and culture of the province.
What excites you most in a book?
I read a lot, but particularly enjoy subjects that I know a bit about. So pinpoint-accurate research is crucial or, for me, the book is ruined. When an author gets it right, and you know it’s right, it’s such a joy to read.
What are some of the most important novels and books to come out of Quebec, in your view?
Far too many to give you an answer. I’ll be biased and say Ross Murray’s Don’t Everyone Jump at Once. That’s seminal work about parenting, families, and the absurdity of life in general.
What are some of your favourite pieces of Quebec writing?
Hugh MacLennan’s Two Solitudes. Not necessarily by a Quebecer, but certainly someone with a strong connection to the province.
If you were to recommend that someone who has never read anything from Quebec pick up a book and start reading it today, which book would it be?
Depends on what they’re looking for in a book. Everyone’s different so I’m not really in a position to recommend a title really. That being said, I’m currently reading what’s rapidly turning into the best book I have read since I moved to Quebec. The Night Canada Stood Still, published by HarperCollins and released in May 2014, is an unbiased account of the 1995 Quebec referendum. It explains everything – warts and all – and is, in my opinion, a must-read for anyone with in interest in Quebec province or the intricacies of Canadian politics.