I had a terrific surprise this morning when I opened an email from Katie Vibert, an artist and teacher at the CEGEP de Sept-Îles in Quebec, and discovered these photos of an exhibition of banners painted by students at the college. You can see dg in the middle of the photo above. The project is called GENS D’ICI, GENS DE PAROLES and is meant to celebrate authors, songwriters, explorers either from the Côte-Nord or having some passionate literary connection with the place. Art students did the portraits on one side of the banner, and literature students painted an apt quotation on the reverse. And then all the banners
were displayed at the front of the college building. Some of the inspiration for the project came from Pierre Rouxel, founder of the North Shore literary journal Littoral (more on this another time). Of course, this is all because of my novel Elle which was translated into French as Le Pas de l’Ourse. Elle takes place on the Côte-Nord, though somewhat to the north and east of Sept-Îles. But the windswept islands off Sept-Îles in the Gulf of St. Lawrence inspired the island where she is marooned. And the last scene of the novel, the contemporary moment between the new young bear woman and her older lover, takes place on the beach at Sept-Îles. The Côte-Nord is part of the country of my imagination.
It’s difficult to explain how much this touches me. I love the quotation Stéphanie Roussy picked for the banner. It happens to be true and goes to the heart of things. I am an Anglo farm boy from southern Ontario, and now I live far away in a foreign country, and yet these students, artists, and writers have included me in their exhibition. My imagined Canada has become part of their imagined Canada. This is the miracle of books. It makes you want to be a writer.