Governor General’s Literary Awards
“Supported by elegant and masterful narration, this is a tragicomic fresco where the art of storytelling is a source of great reading pleasure. It is a Fellinian gallery of characters as colourful as they are endearing, where self-mockery goes hand in hand with hypochondria. A moving novel that transcends the limits of autobiographical fiction.”
—Peer assessment committee: Katia Belkhodja, Emmanuel Kattan and Alain Bernard Marchand
Alain is marrying Virginie in the crypt of Saint Joseph’s Oratory, on Mount Royal. At first glance, this is the most beautiful day of his life—of their lives. Everyone is there: the bride’s parents, the close friend, the narrator’s parents—a Lebanese couple from Egypt who immigrated to Quebec 30 years ago, divorced 20 years ago, and haven’t spoken to each other in 10 years. But as the big day approaches, Alain is feeling increasingly terrible. His insomnia is back, and so are his anxiety and his illness. And today, his cousin Édouard, his best man, his brother, will lose it, swept away by the mad mechanics of denial of biblical proportions.
Alain prays that fate will spare them, that the big day will be one of celebration and healing. But a name resurfaces at the turn of a phrase, a cursed name that has risen from the depths of his memory, where the shame and pain of the dark years lie. That name is soon accompanied by a voice, a body, a story. A ghost with several faces becomes flesh, and everything they all wanted to forget, everything they refused to see, everything they hated comes to claim its due.
As we make our beds, we lie in them. Because life, ya Alain, is a trap that lies dormant in the prison of time. Yes, remember, ya ebni, that life does not last: a few joys, great sorrows, a thousand secrets, a thousand hazards.
Born in Montréal to Lebanese parents from Egypt, Alain Farah is a writer, columnist and professor of French literature at McGill University. He published a collection of poems in 2004, Quelque chose se détache du port (finalist for the Émile-Nelligan award), followed by Matamore no 29 in 2008 and Pourquoi Bologne (finalist for the Grand Prix du livre de Montréal) in 2013. In addition to being a commentator on the radio program Plus on est de fous, plus on lit!, from 2011 to 2021, he collaborated with Mélanie Baillairgé on a graphic novel, La ligne la plus sombre, and wrote the theatrical adaptation of Denys Arcand’s film, Le déclin de l’empire américain, which has been performed nearly 80 times. Alain Farah lives in Montréal, Quebec.
Photo: Justine Latour
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