6 September 2014

Monique Proulx: Les Aurores montréales (1996)

As this is my first taste of Monique Proulx's work, and as there are twenty-seven short stories here – many of them very different from others – I'm undecided about what to make of her.

The title Les Aurores Montréales – translated as Aurora Montrealis in the English version – is an obvious pun on Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, and Montréal is almost a character in many of them. It's also the title of one of the stories about a sixteen-year-old writing a book of the same name.

Six other stories seem to be important ones, being italicised, and all ('Gris et Blanc, 'Jaune et Blanc', 'Rose et Blanc', 'Noir et Blanc', 'Rouge et Blanc', and 'Blanc') can relate to the colour of a person's skin.

A number of Proulx's stories concern multicultural Montréal, immigrants to Montréal, and the differences found in Montréal compared to elsewhere. The feeling of dépaysement (or disorientation, literally being out of one's country and the title of one of the stories) isn't only restricted to immigrants from different countries: in 'Le Futile et l'Essentiel', a daughter welcomes – which isn't the right word but it will have to do for now – her mother to the 'big city' for a short stay, although the day the mother spends on her own there ends with the terrified woman being escorted back to her daughter's place by police officers after being  – hiding and terrified – following a brief subway blackout.

And there's the thorny issue of class or status, as evidenced by the title of one of the stories: 'Fucking Bourgeois'. Then in the penultimate story 'Sans Domicile Fixe', ('No Fixed Abode') where a middle-class guy without any encouragement just gives his wallet to a homeless alcoholic guy and joins him on the carré Saint-Louis (which in twenty years doesn't seem to have changed that much).

I can't yet put my finger on what exactly Monique Proulx is up too, but it seems to be something very interesting, and maybe reading her novel Le Sexe des Étoiles (1987) – which concerns a transsexual – will give me a little more to think about.

Meanwhile, Paris calls to us again.

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