Andrée A. Michaud, 2014 Canada Council laureate - Governor General's Literary Awards

Andrée A. Michaud, 2014 Canada Council laureate – Governor General's Literary Awards

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Andrée A. Michaud is a 2014 winner of the Governor General’s Literary Awards for “Bondrée” (category: Fiction)

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What inspired me
to write this novel were childhood
memories, primarily. My father used to bring me to
a place we called the Bondrée, hence the title of the novel, which I'll talk about at
greater length further on. Very powerful images
of this place have always stayed with me. For me it became
an idyllic spot, and I have not been back
there in over 40 years. So I wanted to reinvent this
place, and use it for a novel. I should mention
that place is always extremely important
in my novels. The place served as
the starting point, and then I introduced the characters
and created the action, taking the configuration of
the landscape into account. As is the case in the
writing of all my novels, there were several versions. Here there is a central
character named Pierre Landry, a trapper who lived in
Bondrée in the 1940s. He is dead when the
novel begins, but he has a very important influence on
the development of the story. And initially, I had given
him a predominant role that turned out to
be too important and threw off the
balance of the narrative. Thus the difficult thing
for me was to reduce the size of the role I
had given Pierre Landry. This was really hard because
he's a character I adore, and I was obliged to cut several
scenes where he appeared, and cut out several sections
where I talked about his life. I realized at some point
that the predominance I had given him destabilized
or unbalanced the novel, and so I had to cut back. I think this was the thing
I found the most difficult and the most upsetting
in writing this book. Why did I
choose the title Bondrée? There were many reasons. First, as I said, it is the
place and it is important in this novel, as is place
in many of my novels. Also, 'Bondrée'
is a deformation, a Frenchification of the
English word 'boundary'. It's a term that is in use in
Quebec in a number of places, mostly in border regions. I was recently in the
Lower Saint Lawrence and I talked to people there, and they all knew what
I meant by 'bondrée.' So it is not unique to my region
of the Eastern Townships, the Haute Beauce, it's a term
that francophone Quebeckers use often to refer to a border. And the novel takes
place at the border, 'boundary', near a lake
called Boundary Pond. For me, the title
Bondrée was essential. There was some reluctance
on the part of my publisher, who felt that it wasn't
a catchy enough title, and thought that several readers
might not know what it meant. But I was adamant, because
Bondrée is the third volume in a trilogy that I call
my American trilogy. The three novels take place in the American states
bordering on Quebec. In this one, it's as
though the French language was reasserting its rights. In the three novels, obviously,
there are cultural exchanges, cultural blending,
Anglophones and Francophones who meet or live
alongside one another. With Bondrée, this was a way
for me to complete the cycle and say that French –
not that it predominates, but that French can
conserve its place in this Anglophone universe, and so the
title Bondrée was important. It was to show that in
our Francophone world, we adopt English
terms, but we use them to talk about our own reality. So there you have it. Bondrée is the title
that was called for, since this is a
novel about borders – geographic, linguistic
and cultural – where French asserts its
presence in North America. That is my explanation. Every novel we write teaches
us something, clearly. In this case, it's hard
to say, I'm not sure. It's something that we often
discover once we've had time to distance ourselves
from the novel, and I haven't had the
time needed to do so yet. But I would say that
as with all my novels, Bondrée has taught me an
important lesson in humility. Even if we become
seasoned in our craft, even when you've been writing
for 20, 25, 30 years, you realize every time that
it is always a new challenge and that the outcome
is never guaranteed. There is always an incredible
amount of work to do in order to arrive at
the desired result. I think this is a lesson that
is repeated novel after novel.

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