This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with people who are closely involved with Quebec literature on a daily basis as we continue to talk to publishers, readers, bookstore owners, and translators to get a feel for today’s publishing scene in Quebec.
JC Sutcliffe is a writer, translator, and editor. She has lived in England, France, and Canada. Book*hug is publishing her first two novel-length translations in 2018.
What are you reading at the minute?
Right now I’m reading Blaise Ndala’s Sans capote ni kalashnikov. I’m also working up the nerve to read the published version of Document 1 by François Blais, which I translated into English. I held the printed book in my hands for the first time just a few days ago and am a little afraid to open it.
Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to reading this year?
This year I’m really looking forward to reading Songs for the Cold of Heart, Peter McCambridge’s translation of La Fiancée américaine! It’s already on my shelf but I need to clear a few things out of the way first. I’m also looking to very close readings of David Goudreault’s second instalment of Mama’s Boy and Sophie Bienvenu’s Et au pire, on se mariera, the two books I’ll be translating this year.
What is your relationship to Quebec writing?
My first introduction to Quebec writing has been like my first introduction to a lot of other cultural things in my life, like film, music, and literature more generally: being somewhat unimpressed with mainstream offerings, but not realising for some time that there was an alternative. Once I found my niche I decided to be very picky about what I read. And there’s still not enough time for everything.
What, if anything, would you say defines Quebec literature?
What defines Quebec literature… interesting question. I think it’s hard to categorise, but—among the books I’ve read, at least—I’ve noticed common threads among people writing in the last decade: more of an engagement with urban life than existed previously, as well as an urban sensibility applied to novels with rural setting.
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?
I’d have to recommend the extremely poignant Mama’s Boy by David Goudreault, translated by me and appearing from Book*hug in June. The main character is, quite frankly, a terrible person, but David really digs into the social causes behind this with some desperately poignant observations. I’d also recommend anything by Catherine Leroux, Naomi Fontaine, and Éric Plamondon.