Call for Editors for Soliloquies 23!

Soliloquies Anthology is currently seeking applicants for our 2018-2019 Editorial Committee.

We are Concordia’s undergraduate literary journal that publishes both in print and online, giving students the opportunity to gain valuable publishing and editorial experience. We are hiring for the following positions:

  • Managing Editor
  • Poetry Editors
  • Prose Editors
  • Social Media Editor
  • Web Content Editor

Next year will be the 23rd volume of Soliloquies Anthology—a journal which has since become an established part of Concordia and Montreal’s literary community.

If you have a strong interest in publishing and wish to contribute to our Editorial Committee, please submit a 300 word cover letter and a relevant CV to soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com.

The application deadline is April 22nd at 11:59pm. Please see the further information on the available positions below.

The Managing Editor works closely with the Editors-in-Chief to perform the day-to-day operations of the journal. The Managing Editor contributes to various aspects of the anthology’s executive operations, including:
• Organize the production of our bi-annual print publication, including submissions, printing, and dissemination
• Oversee online Soliloquies content, social media accounts, and our relationship with Montreal’s literary scene
• Maintain the archive of past publications, editors, and contributors
• Aiding the Editors-in-Chief with the management of the editorial committee
• Correspondence with contributors, venues, publishers, and other external parties
• Planning the launch events and overseeing other initiatives
Qualified applicants will have interest in the publishing industry and excellent organizational and managerial skills.

Poetry Editors review, curate, and work with contributors to prepare their work for our publication. Poetry Editors may work with other genres of writing in addition to poetry. Poetry Editors engage with their genre as writers, readers, and members of the larger literary community, and align with the aesthetic tastes of the journal as a venue for poetry.

Fiction Editors review, curate, and work with contributors to prepare their work for our publication. Fiction Editors may work with fiction, non-fiction, and drama submissions. Fiction Editors engage with their genre as writers, readers, and members of the larger literary community, and align with the aesthetic tastes of the journal as a venue for fiction.

The Social Media Editor is one of the Online Editors on staff. The Online Editors are dedicated to generating an online presence and increasing readership and contributor outreach. The Online Editors work in collaboration to orchestrate and curate Flash Fiction contests, interviews, and any online contributor engagement initiatives affiliated with the journal. The Social Media Editor manages the journal’s social media presence, ensuring that information about submission calls, website content, and launch events is available to the Concordia and Montreal community. They are responsible for regularly uploading content to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and (in cooperation with the Web Content Editor) to the website.

The Web Content Editor is one of the Online Editors on staff. The Online Editors are dedicated to generating an online presence and increasing readership and contributor outreach. The Online Editors work in collaboration to orchestrate and curate Flash Fiction contests, interviews, and any online contributor engagement initiatives affiliated with the journal. The Web Content Editor actively produces content for the website, including interviews with past contributors, multimedia content, and articles on current events relating to the journal or literary community. Experience in website design is an asset.

All members of the Editorial Committee contribute to other aspects of the production of the journal, outside of their job descriptions. They actively participate in editorial meetings, offer suggestions for the development of our journal’s reputation, and assist in the execution of our publication, launch parties, and other contributor engagement initiatives affiliated with the journal. Interests and skills beyond the scope of the job description are an asset.

Preference will be given to applicants who are undergraduate students in the English department. Editors must be Montreal-based Concordia undergraduate students through the 2018-2019 academic year.

Email us at soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com for any further inquiries.

An Interview with Jay Ritchie

                                                                  Coach House Books

Jay Ritchie, a graduate of Concordia’s Creative Writing program, recently released his first poetry book Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie (Coach House Books). Dedicated to confronting our conception of temporal progress, Ritchie suggests we think of time as “not further along a line/ only the sensation/ of moving deeper sideways.” Reading his book, one hears the urgent call to reassess the basic assumptions about reality, and forces readers out of their comforting worldview and into the book’s honest–and at times cold and scientific–perspective. Jay Ritchie’s use of rich, creative images and his articulate yet unpretentious communication of complex concepts make this book a joy to read.

Tyson: The conflict of time as a linear and an everlasting present was such a prevalent theme, what was the process of ordering your poems like? I am curious about how you feel the order embraces or resists progression.

Jay: Putting the poems in order is my favourite part of the project. I care way too much about song order on my playlists, on my favourite albums. It’s kind of like a puzzle, in that I know there is a final way I want the book to be, but I’m not sure what it is until I see it. The order of the poems in this book are definitely not chronological by date of composition. The last poem in the book is one of the first ones I wrote. The final order I settled on was seasonal: the poems start in spring, move into summer, then fall, then winter. I believe in books of poetry as experiences unto themselves, not just a collection of poems the poet happened to write between certain dates. That’s why I don’t like “collected poems,” or, even, worse, “selected poems.” There’s no flavour! I need there to be a sense of movement, a progression. Theme can do that, character can do that, plot can do that. A common tool to make that happen is time, and that’s what I used in this collection.

Throughout the book you referenced different scientific phenomena such as the refraction of light, photosynthesis, geometry, astronomy and the biological cycles of nature. Seeing that scientific study has an impact on your writing, what is the relationship between science and art in your poetry?

Shout out to photosynthesis. I don’t think about science and poetry in any kind of formal way; I think that would take the fun out of poetry for me, to have a “conceit” or something. Like, “this poem is called “cell” and in it I will use the scientific vocabulary of all the constituent parts of a cell.” That’s not for me. I have a general fascination with geometry, biology, physics, music, and all of that settles when I start to write. I will say that the temptation to use scientific metaphors is sometimes hard to resist, concepts like refraction, harmony, fractals, the observer effect (that observation influences outcome), gravity. But these are ready-made metaphors we use to describe the world, which is what poetry can also be used for, so it’s two approaches to the same question.

The poems navigate multiple settings: the natural environment, home, a waiting room; in front of a computer, with other people or being alone, and Montreal. Do you find that certain environments inspire your writing more than others?

I think I’ve learned that part of writing poetry, for me, involves accessing what CAConrad calls the extreme present. I think Time magazine calls it mindfulness. There are many words for it. I use poetry and poetry uses me to access that place, and so often the place I am actually in at the time of writing appears in the poem. Nowhere is more or less “inspirational”—if I had a dependably inspirational place I would be there all the time. Maybe it’s my body? Anyways, I actually try to get at this idea in one of the poems, where it says “I feel numinous at the SAAQ.” It’s a notoriously uninspiring place, where you wait hours to pay a fine or get shamed for running a red light 5 years ago by understandably grouchy government employees. I love it when I have to go there, or like, a waiting room or a laundromat, because I’m trapped by circumstance, and I can write poetry to rocket ship out of the situation. Which, of course, means being extremely present in the situation.

Do you have a favorite poem in the collection?

I think my favourite poem is “With Wild Abandon and Uncommon Hope We Set Out on Our Journey.” I feel like I can still get vibes off that poem, off what the poem does in both form and content. I like reading it at readings.

You can purchase Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie at Coach House Books.

Off the Page Literary Festival 2017/18

Got any plans for the weekend, or need a break from St. Patrick’s Day madness? Wondering what a literary can event do in a moment of crisis? Just really love literature?

Curated and coordinated by Concordia’s Creative Writing students, the annual Off the Page literary festival runs from March 15th to 17th 2018 at Concordia University (SGW campus).

Here are just some of the events that will be happening this weekend:

Marathon Reading: Renee Gladman’s The Ravickians
Thursday, March 15, at 2 PM, outside LB 646.

Keeping with Off the Page tradition, this event is both straightforward and satisfying: as a group, we will read a novel in its entirety. This year’s novel is Renee Gladman’s The Ravickians, the second volume of her acclaimed Ravicka trilogy. The Ravickians continues the author’s profound meditation on translation, narrating the day-long odyssey of Luswage Amini, the Great Ravickian Novelist, who journeys through the city to attend the reading of an old friend. Participants can join in the reading or sit back and listen- whatever they feel comfortable with.

Literary Mentorships: What Do We Want & How Do We Want It!
Saturday, March 17, at 2PM, in LB 646.

This discussion panel aims to define & disassemble the current state of literary relationships & mentorships, articulating new terms by which we can negotiate these concepts, and foster a community of writers that at once sustains and inspires. Our featured panelists are Stephanie Bolster, professor at Concordia & poet, Andrea Bennett, editor-in-chief at Maisonneuve Press, Emily Crompton, graduate student in Concordia’s Creative Writing program, and Meredith Marty-Dugas, editor-in-chief at Soliloquies Anthology.

Disastrous Confidence
Friday, March 16, at 4PM, in LB 646.

Finding ourselves in the maw of the University, we find the most ethical path forward to be a messy one. Our aim is to disrupt the public workings of the University, to occupy its hallways, to stake out the spaces it cordons off, and bless them with the presence our bodies.
Join us as we invite Nene Myriam Konaté, Jupiter Brown, Tara McGowan-Ross, Jessica Dolan & Sadie Avery to eschew the traditional panel format in favour of guerrilla interventions. There will be noise, of course.

Adaptations, Translations and Reimagined Texts
Friday, March 16, at 1PM, in LB 646.

Adaptations, translations and reimagined texts re-contextualize typically older works, that have, at their core, deep truths, and bring those ideas into the contemporary conversation. Marginalized people especially look to re-adaptations to insert their perspective and retell a story with an inclusion of their identities.
Our invitees for this discussion include translator Aimee Wall, multimedia artist Oana Avasilichioeai, author and editor Danielle Dutton, and feature filmmaker Wiebke Von Carolsfeld.

Lemon Hound Launch: Not Your Mother’s Future
Thursday, March 15, at 7 PM, at Maison Notman House.

For our third volume, Lemon Hound 3.0 responds to this transformative moment in our literary community by publishing work that intends to smash, upend, rally against, dream of, reclaim, and redefine literary communities—we have chosen writing that is formally or thematically provocative, corporeal, experimental, interruptive, vulnerable, and visionary. Our editorial collective asks you to join us in forging a creative, empathetic resistance. Break the rules. Rewrite them. Reclaim the architecture. Don’t apologize. In conjunction with the 2018 Off the Page literary festival, this event will readings from Karen Solie, Laura Broadbent, Paige Cooper, Oana Avasilichioeai, Canisia Lubrin, Nyla Matuk and more.

Call for Applicants!

Soliloquies Anthology is looking for a second Editor-in- Chief to join the 2018/2019 masthead.

Working together, the two EICs are responsible for managing all aspects of the literary journal, including: hiring and supervising content and media editors, event planning, publishing one journal per semester and the logistics of publication, budgeting, promotion, and website content. Soliloquies wants to continue engaging both with the international submissions it receives and with a variety of local artists and communities, so that students and writers have a strong platform to rely on for information, reviews, events, poetry, and prose.

The qualities we are looking for include:

– Must be an undergraduate student at Concordia. Studying at least one subject (English,
Creative Writing, Professional Writing) within the English department is desired, but not
mandatory.
– A strong command of the English language and literary genres, especially contemporary
writing. Special interest and knowledge about writing and editing poetry is a bonus.
– Previous editing experience in areas of poetry, prose, creative nonfiction, book and
event reviews, social media promos, and/or opinion pieces.
– Knowledge of a variety of Montreal literary communities and events, and a willingness to
create connections within them.
– Ability to organize and lead a group of about ten people. Must be organized and self-
motivated, since the Editor-in- Chief is responsible for guiding the rest of the masthead.
– Ability to collaborate others. You will be sharing your position with another person, so
conflict resolution and communication are necessary skills.
– Previous budgeting experience, or aptitude for numbers, is a bonus. (If you are an
English student, interested in running for CASE as the VP of Publications, to manage
that budget and internal communication is also desired.)
– Event planning experience and interesting ideas for engaging Concordia students and
the outside community.

Some responsibility for this position will begin in April, like hiring the rest of the masthead,
however those hours will be flexible. By September, the position will require about 10 hours per week, ranging around the publication deadlines.

The deadline to apply for Co-Editor- in-Chief is
March 31, 2018 at 11:59pm. Please forward a CV, cover letter, and any further questions about
the position to soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com.

Interested in joining Soliloquies but not ready to take over as Editor-in- Chief? Stay tuned for our
call for Editors coming up in a few weeks.
All positions on Soliloquies Anthology are unpaid.

Our Bodies, Our Stories: an Interview with Kama La Mackerel

“Your story is valid. Your voice is valid. Your truth is valid.”

Project 10 is an organization that works to promote the personal, social, sexual, and mental well-being of LGBTQT2I and questioning youth and adults 14-25. Our Bodies, Our Stories is an ongoing workshop series for QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) youth in Montreal, put on by Project 10. This upcoming Saturday, February 17th the participants of Our Bodies, Our Stories will be sharing their work at a performance showcase and fundraiser being held at Theatre Saint Catherine.

Media Content Editor Jessica Kinnari, was able to ask Kama La Mackerel, the Project Coordinator and Artistic Director of Project 10, a few questions about the upcoming performance, and what Our Bodies, Our Stories is all about.

Jessica Kinnari: How long have you been working together to produce this upcoming showcase?

Kama La Mackerel: There are two groups in the program: one group that started in the Fall of 2017 and one group that started in the summer of 2017. This showcase features participants who joined the program in July 2017. Over the past few months, we have explored composition, creative writing, character development, performance, delivery etc. both in groups and in solo work. This showcase will feature 8 youth who will be presenting solo work that they have developed over the course of the past few months.

Kinnari: What kind of art and performance can the audience look forward to? Are there any kind of themes for the evening?

La Mackerel: There will be a mix of spoken word, story-telling, movement and music. I believe the unifying theme of the evening will be around the self: the coming into the self, the growing in the self; and that self will be explored through nostalgia, loss, ancestral quests, healing and unapologetic expressions of QTBIPOC voices.

Kinnari: What can QTBIPOC youth expect from this workshop? What are some of the activities you do to help explore different art mediums?

La Mackerel: There are many aspects of growth, healing and connection that are embedded in the core values of this program. The youth can expect to first be in a safe space where they can bear their hearts and bear witness to other QTBIPOC youth with whom they share identities. They can expect to break isolation, to cultivate relationships on a regular and long-term basis with a group of peers. They can expect to learn how to find their voice and how to articulate their voice through artistic practices. They can expect connections with elders in the community, and site visits to see shows, performances and exhibitions that are QT/BIPOC-centered. They can also expect to learn about “hard skills” such as finances, administration, project management, facilitation etc., which are trainings we also give in the program. And they can expect a lot of artistic explorations through creative writing, performance, story-telling, visual arts etc.

Kinnari: You usually cook meals for the weekly meetings. What is important to you about providing food and eating together?

La Mackerel: I believe that food— the making, the sharing— is sacred: it feeds the body, literally, and it feeds the spirit as well. I believe that a lot of healing and relationship-building happens over food: it is important for me to provide a warm meal to these youth as they come to the workshop every week. It is a question of accessibility, but also a way of expressing care. And it is a way for the youth to sit together and eat together and build trust over a meal, on a weekly basis.

Kinnari: What advice do you give to QTBIPOC youth who are feeling more reserved about sharing their art?

La Mackerel: Your story is valid. Your voice is valid. Your truth is valid

Kinnari: What factors stop QTBIPOC youth from accessing workshops like Our Bodies, Our Stories? How has this project overcome those barriers?

La Mackerel: First of all, the opportunities for QTBIPOC youth in and around Montreal to access arts training is close to inexistent. Where such an opportunity may arise, it is very often inaccessible to QTBIPOC youth because of financial barriers, or because the entire program is designed without taking the lived experiences of these youth into account, making the space unsafe for them because of racism or queerphobia.

Our Bodies, Our Stories was created to specifically address the lack of opportunities for QTBIPOC youth in and around Montreal to access these trainings. The program is free, and we offer STM tickets and a warm meal at each workshop so as to make the program as accessible as possible. And the program is specifically designed with QTBIPOC participants in mind.

If you want to support Our Bodies, Our Stories and are interested in attending the showcase, more information can be found here on their website or on the Facebook event page.

Black Boys: An Interview with Thomas Olajide

 

Black Boys, a theatre performance produced by Buddies in Bad Times Saga/Collectif, is on at Espace Libre, in collaboration with The Black Theatre Workshop. The creators behind Black Boys describe their play as “created from the lives of three people seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. As they explore their unique identities on stage, they subvert the ways in which gender, sexuality, and race are performed.” We were able to interview Thomas Olajide, about the creative conception and meaning of the performance.

Tyson Burger: Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, and yourself are all co-creators and co-stars of Black Boys. How did you approach the creation process together?

Thomas: We started each day with improvised movement which we called “jam sessions”. Out of these physical improvisations arose textual scenes that were later transcribed and incorporated into the piece.

You’ve been performing Black Boys since its premiere at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in November 2016. What’s changed about the play for you since then?

The play is now an expression of where I was in my cultural, sexual, and gender identities. It acts as a kind of sign post or tag. “Thomas was here”, in a sense.

What kind of contrasts or similarities were important for you to build between these characters, considering the lack of representation and the stereotypes of black gay men?

That was not our primary intention. Of course, we were aware of the lack of representation of queer black bodies on stage. Allowing our bodies and experiences to be the centre of focus in a theatrical piece, however, was our response to that reality. As our process unfolded we realized that our individual experiences both contrasted and coalesced with one another’s. That complexity became the kernel of our piece.

 


Black Boys will be performed at Espace Libre until February 17th.

Théâtre Espace Libre
1945 rue Fullum
Montreal, QC Canada

Tickets are available here: https://billets.espacelibre.qc.ca/dates.aspx?codeEvent=BLASaison%202017-2018

 

Catriona Wright: Table Manners A Review

“I’m useless / at any other frequency” declares the speaker of “Gastronaut,” the inaugural poem to Catriona Wright’s food-themed collection Table Manners.

“I just chose to care about this instead of something else. My life is now / tuned to bone marrow donuts and chef gossip.”

As you might have anticipated, the locus of Wright’s three-sectioned debut isn’t really about food, as much as she has inexorably fused it into the centre of her speaker’s manifold concerns, to which food to the rest of us accounts for only an aspect.

Food talk is, much like poetry talk is, involved with the fraught union between content and form. What will be ingredient to, how the meal will be prepared, often the details are impossibly particular. Food is, however, which I cannot say for poetry, necessary for survival. But the ways we interact with food as human, historical bodies; as we are recanted in the millenia-spanning “Origin Story”; and the ways food is fundamental to so much of our storied, cultural sustenance (such as we see in a poem written from the the perspective of one of Hitler’s taste-testers), makes for a perfect dwelling ground for the kind of transcendent understanding often engendered by a subject like poetry.

Quail egg yolk & / nine grains of pink sea salt.” Wright delivers, “We are of an age in an age / of life beyond our means.” Her work here is unmistakably engaged with these notions. Percolating between the foamy, whimsical imagery of her frequently alliterative couplets and her delightful, lavishly-rendered stanzas is a kind of familiar poignancy that is often conceived of in the alienating face of a life filled with innumerable gourmet restaurants; of having to choose a best place to go if one was in the mood for sushi or Thai fusion tapas.

Something worthwhile to dwell on on a full stomach. Often while reading Wright’s poems, I would find myself distracted by the appearance of an out-of-left-field food item. Other times, poems like “BBF” and “Fallow Day” made me wonder if lines like “I fed her red gummy bears all through that doubt,” and “the heat of a perfect grilled cheese witch,” were necessary in conveying a sense of what is already a unified and holistically-minded book of poetry.

Haute couture veggie gigs, fig slingers, brie gropers; all of this amounts to a rich, if not thematically saturated, translation of the various overwhelming frequencies we worry over and negotiate at the various tables of our lives.

 

Book review by Adrian Ngai

A Review: The Chemical Life

In the shadowy, suspended delirium of The Chemical Life, the speakers sing of their desperation to reach “glory, / or as near as [they] know it”  through the most powerful portal known: the human mind and its infinite dependencies.

It’s in late night drunken revelry, bodies in their sensual escapades, and drugs—from the medicine cabinet to the underbelly of Toronto’s West End—that one unlocks the brain’s altered terrains. But what if reality is so much to bear that one shuts the door between the self and the world forever? In his fifth collection, Jim Johnstone’s poems weave in and out of the real and the hallucinatory. The text is charged with tensions: the mind is in the throes of escapism, as the grip of addiction and madness grow stronger; as the substances provide release, the speaker is once again dragged into the dreaded cycle.

Johnstone’s verse is exact and razor-edged. When detailing the collection’s recurring sense of disorientation, he skirts by the potential for excessive abstractions or overflowing stanzas. His clipped lines and sharp rhythms are like surgical incisions that cut cleanly into both the page and memory. Within, the concrete imagery pulses with the energy of the mayhem it conveys. One example is the poem Crane Fist, in which the brevity fuses with a war drum-like measure that explodes into a barrage of violent snapshots.

Despite his concise diction, the speakers are never overly analytical about their internal conflict. The collection’s power does not arise from detached description, but from each poem’s “flash / of negative knowledge” , as states the book’s epigraph by W.H Auden. When Johnstone dissects a moment, we relive the thick of it, turmoil and all. His language is solid while time and perspective are liquid. The white plain of a line break gives a respite to breathe before being thrust back into chaos, such as in the standout Self-Portrait as Anything at Any Cost:

Developed, mania splits
the mind’s roof,
the sclera where I swoop down
for a look…
part and parcel with what I’ve become.

Like the reader, the speakers are never static and are always experiencing metamorphosis, of themselves or their surroundings. In Ovid, Metamorphoses XIV, 223-319, the eight-part poem alludes to the tale of Ulysses and his crew encountering the sorceress Circe. It’s a different kind of magic that causes the speaker’s friends to transform and gain “long snouts, the hair / of swine, war paint bulging / over wine-stained hides.”

With a concrete foundation beneath layers of searing sensory detail, Jim Johnstone proves himself to be an established voice still able to gaze into the landscape of the mind with startlingly fresh eyes. These poems are potent, yet temporary, and readers will return to The Chemical Life for its phantasmic blasts again and again.

 

 

Faith Paré is a writer, performer, and theatre-maker from Tkaronto (Toronto), currently
studying English and Creative Writing in Tiohtiá:ke (Montréal) at Concordia University.
Her work has appeared in Shameless Magazine, and she has been honoured to read
alongside poets Shane Koyczan and Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke.
When not writing, she is probably falling asleep on a metro car somewhere.

Final days to submit to Soliloquies 22.2

We have been reading exceptional poetry and prose, and are looking forward to reading more! Our deadline is fast approaching, and we don’t want to miss out on your work.

Here are our Submission Guidelines. We hope to see your work before FEBRUARY 3rd @ 11:59pm

***

Soliloquies Anthology is looking for vibrant, unpublished poetry and prose in English by emerging and established authors. We want smart, confident work, from a variety of locations, backgrounds, perspectives and schools.

Send us work that is polished, but not necessarily safe or perfect.

Submission Guidelines

  • Poetry (up to four poems; max. 5 pages)
  • Fiction (up to two pieces; max. 3500 words)
  • Creative Non-Fiction (up to two pieces; max. 3500 words)

Poetry and prose submissions may include multiple pieces within the maximum page count or word count outlined above. Each new piece must begin on a new page, and must be clearly titled. Authors may submit to all three genres, though each submission must be completed separately.

While we allow simultaneous submissions, authors must notify us immediately if their work is accepted elsewhere. Soliloquies Anthology retains First North American Serial Rights, and the right to reproduce any work in our print publication online. Rights revert to authors after publication.

Note that when the journal is produced, writing is formatted within a 4.5 by 7 inch space. Please consider how these parameters will affect the presentation of the work you are submitting. Due to the short window between our deadline and printing date, formatting may be done by the design team, without the author’s consultation.

How to Submit

Submit electronically through our Submittable account at soliloquies.submittable.com. Upload your submission in .docx or .doc format.

Include your contact information, the title(s) of your piece(s) and a brief biographical statement written in the third person in the Cover Letter field.

The author’s name and any identifying information should not appear anywhere on the manuscript. All submissions are read blind.

We do not consider submissions that do not comply with these guidelines, incomplete submissions, and submissions received by email. If you have any difficulties or queries regarding the submissions process, please contact us at soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com.

 

Turning Back & Moving Forward: A Review of Sun of a Distant Land

David Bouchet’s Sun of a Distant Land (translated by Claire Holden Rothman, Esplanade Books/Véhicule Press, 2017) is in many ways the perfect ‘Montreal’ book.

Originally written in French and later translated into English, the tale of the Senegalese twelve-year-old Souleye and his family’s immigration to Montreal is as multifaceted and bilingual as the Canadian city of its publishing. More than that, however, the novel is a melancholically earnest but heart-warming story of what it means to try and leave the past and your culture behind and how much of it remains, for better or for worse.

Another addition to the ever-growing library of immigration literature, Bouchet’s novel is quite large in scope. While dealing with the newly-arrived immigrant experience, Bouchet plays with the curiosity and naivety of its young narrator Souleye, to offer both light-hearted portrayals of an ever-surprising Montreal and immeasurably deep reflections on mental health, family relations, and the inevitable loss and gain that comes with making a new place one’s own. Through other notable characters, like Souleye’s eccentric but depressive father, and Charlotte, Souleye’s cross-eyed best friend from a broken home, the novel explores other facets of these  themes, offering multiple perspectives while maintaining an overarching narrative of accepting and inviting change. The novel also takes readers all over Montreal and beyond, both in the present and past, going from tiny apartments in Villeray and parks in Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie to mango groves in Dakar in the very same sentence. It is a book that can make one feel at home in its distances, thoughtful in its sadness, and captivated in its honesty.

The only reservation I have about the book is in the translation and its effect on both the novel’s language and the content. While the prose is excellent– its simple effectiveness borders on the poetic in some scenes– the translator’s hand is almost too noticeable. Not having read the original French edition (Soleil, Éditions la Peuplade, 2015), it is difficult to tell if some of the twelve year old narrator’s more formal thoughts were the author’s choice, or something added in translation. Additionally, the novel’s deliberate poking fun at the linguistic differences of French and English sometimes misses its mark due to the translation. A line like: “Come on, Souleye. You’re not a loser,” he says, stressing all the English words”, loses its authenticity when all the words are already in English. However, it is an easy fix if we presume the characters are speaking French to one another.

Sun of a Distant Land is a book that is easy to get lost in. It is an enjoyable read that keeps you wanting more from characters that feel like they could live down the street from you, whose struggles you become akin to, while asking what it means to truly be home.

 

Book review by Alexander Luiz Cruz