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Jacques Poulin

Spring Tides

Jacques Poulin Spring Tides
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Biographical note:

Born in Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Jacques Poulin is the author of fourteen novels. Among his many honors are the Governor General's Award, the Molson Prize in the Arts, the Gilles-Corbeil Prize, and the France-Québec Prize. He lives in Québec City.

Sheila Fischman has published more than 125 translations of contemporary French-Canadian. Fischman was named to the Order of Canada in 2002 and to the Ordre national du Québec in 2008; in the same year she received the Molson Prize in the Arts.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

A Hand at the Window

In the beginning he was alone on the island. He had a code name, Teddy Bear, which he used for communicating with the boss’s helicopter. Every Saturday the boss would bring him work and provisions for the week.
There was still some snow in the underbrush, but the ice on the beach had been swept away by the April spring tides. Sometimes flocks of snow geese would land on the sandbar on the north shore. If Teddy saw any geese on Saturday morning he would advise his boss by radio and ask him to land at the other end of the island.
On this first Saturday in May there were no snow geese. They were probably on the other islands in the river, or at Montmagny or Cap Tourmente. The boss landed his heli- copter on the edge of the beach, opposite the North House. Teddy wanted to meet him, but before the Jet Ranger’s rotor had stopped spinning, the man was already climbing up the path to the house. He was small in stature, bald and paunchy. Eyes to the ground, face flushed, he strode past his employee without seeing him. He carried two bags of provisions and a leather briefcase.
When Teddy caught up with him on the gallery where he had set down his packages, the boss asked the ritual question:
"Are you happy on the island?" "Very happy," said Teddy. "Are you sure?" Teddy nodded.
The boss’s eyes were filled with concern. He shook Teddy’s hand vigorously, then smoothed his gloves. Racing driver’s gloves: the fingers were cut off and there were air vents on the backs. He never removed them.

Main description:

Peacefully employed on an uninhabited island, Teddy Bear, a translator of comic strips, lives in the company of his faithful dictionary, his marauding cat, Matousalem, and the Prince, his tennis ball machine. Convinced that the translator’s happiness is in jeopardy, his boss helicopters in a few solitude-seeking companions: the lovely and elusive Marie, the aging nudist Featherhead with her extroverted Chihuahua in tow, Professor Moccasin, the somewhat deaf comic book scholar, the irritable Author, the Ordinary Man, and the Organizer, sent to "sensitize the population." The feverish pitch of the island’s discordant chorus rises with the spring tides. Jacques Poulin’s hilarious philosophical fable is an existential masterpiece.

Review quote:

Winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award

For decades Poulin has been teaching us that great literature can be about small things: the language of love and the love of language, the pleasure of solitude and the grief of loneliness, the value of work and the importance of play. While each of his novels stands on its own, together they create a world that is instantly recognizable and immediately endearing. —Alyson Waters, Yale University

Poulin is a master of imagery and dialogue: they rest like froth on top of something much more murky and morose: an underlying fear of emptiness. —The Silhouette

Shares a mix of detached humour, fantasy and compassion with Vonnegut and Salinger. —Saskatoon Star-Phoenix One of the finest and most underrated novelists in Québec. —The Globe & Mail

The most affecting aspect of Spring Tides, I think, is the unexpected sense of loss that sneaks up on you at the end of the novel, like a sudden deep pain, as if Poulin has been distracting you by making shadows with one hand while the other did its subtle, cutting work. —Nick Ancosta, The New York Sun


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