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Beaulieu, Victor-Levy.

Translated by Ray Chamberlain. Toronto, Exile Editions. c1987, 201pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-920428-33-9. Distributed by General Publishing.

Reviewed by E. Robson

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

According to The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, Beaulieu's writing does "create a faithful picture of an age and a culture" while his characters "embody aspects of his own character and experience." This modern author of over thirty novels, plays, essays, and 150 television serials brings the Quebecois culture down to earth through his descriptions of insanity, perverse sexual relations, alcoholism, drug addiction, and failed relationships. Constant use of symbols of death, drowning, alienation, and the "failed Book" dominate this novel to demonstrate the lack of direction and hope in post-referendum Quebec.

The novel focuses on a brother and sister who return to Quebec and their family after fifteen years in Dublin and Paris. Their Pa has gone mad and their Uncle Phil has become an alcoholic. Brother Abel, once a successful writer, lives with a cocaine addict, and another brother runs a sleazy bar and drug trade. Even the fog, snow, and wind accent the despair and dreariness of this family, modern urban Montreal, and Quebec as a whole.

The characters throughout the novel are forever searching for truth or for an escape. Abel, the writer, has been attempting for fifteen years to write a book called Steven Le Herault and he wants Steven, his brother, to herald the coming of this "definitive Book." Despite the weird ending, this has actually happened, through Beaulieu, whose career is reflected by his characters. Beaulieu's early novels, especially the sequence that he calls the "saga of les Beauchemin, would aid in an understanding of this book.

Because of the graphic sexual events, the level of difficulty, and the overpowering despair, this book is recommended, with serious reservations, for post-secondary use only.

E. Robson, Winston Churchill C.I., Scarborough, Ont.
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