Governor General’s Literary Awards

Le drap blanc by Céline Huyghebaert

Le drap blanc

By Céline Huyghebaert

Le Quartanier; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia


When my father died, I didn’t inherit boxes filled with documents and letters. His ashes were tossed into the water. His things were donated, or quickly destroyed.

He had light-coloured eyes and a beard. In photographs, he had that manly carelessness about him that was typical in the 1970s. He would never sit down to eat without his pocket knife and some bread. He addressed everyone in the same way, refusing to submit to anybody’s superiority over him. He was funny and had a temper. He was sensitive. He smoked, he drank; he didn’t leave much behind. I think he’d already started to disappear when he was still alive. When they lifted his body, I noticed the slight dip his skull had made on the sheets. Then it disappeared, and the sheets were smooth again.

The writing of this book was triggered by that disappearance—that absence the dead leave behind, that those who live on use to weave stories in order to move on.

“Through an account of a patient and unremitting inquiry, this marvellously composed book revisits the story of a man who lived without leaving anything behind, save the desire his daughter, Céline, harboured in her heart to bring him back with her to the land of invention. It is a labour of love, a brave gesture expressed through a remarkable accomplishment.”

Peer assessment committee: Hervé Bouchard, Blaise Ndala, Élise Turcotte

Céline Huyghebaert
Celine Huyghebaert
Photo: Le Quartanier, Justine Latour

Biography: Céline Huyghebaert 

Céline Huyghebaert is an artist. She was born in Yvelines, France, in 1978. Her works—where visual arts, language and literature intersect—have been shown in Canada and France, namely at the Fonderie Darling, Dare-Dare, the Toronto Art Book Fair and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal. Le drap blanc, published by Quartanier in 2019, is her first book. Céline has been living in Montréal since 2002. 

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