The great poet Louise Labé (1524-1566), one of the most daring to ever exist, wrote that “the greatest pleasure that is after love is to talk about it”. This can be applied to reading, because the only thing that equals the happiness of a great book a little is sharing that happiness. For a long time, I have broken the ears of those around me with titles that I put in as many hands as possible and that I often have to buy back. Book clubs do not exist for nothing; you don’t want to be alone in your turmoil.
In collaboration with the Montreal Book Fair which ends on Sunday, Press launches the competition “My book of the year”, intended for students of 4e and 5e secondary school, as well as to CEGEP and university students. It is about discovering a reading that has strongly marked you in 2020 – a very special year, we agree – in a text of 500 to 700 words. Two winning texts will be published in Press, among other gifts (internship in journalism, a day with the Montreal Book Fair team next year, etc.).
I will have the honor of being part of the jury along with the bookseller and author Gabriella Kinté Garbeau, the publishing director at Éditions La Presse, Pierre Cayouette, the author Rose-Aimée Automne T. Morin and the Communications coordinator for the Montreal Book Fair, Anabelle Gendron-Turcotte.
I do not know the preferences of my distinguished colleagues, but I want to give some tips to future participants. The first and most important: this is not schoolwork. An article in general works the reverse of a traditional assignment, with the introduction, development and conclusion. We often start an article with our conclusion. For example (and I will magnify the line on purpose): this book is the best of all time and here is why.
What you need to keep in mind is the desire to communicate your passion for your book of the year.
If you need to use madness, humor or mean comparisons to do this, then don’t be shy. The idea is to avoid doing just a summary (we have the back cover for that). When you finish reading your texts, you want to go slam the credit card at the bookstore or say to yourself “how could I have lived until now without having read that?” “.
In truth, the art of criticism is a curious thing, as fragmented as the types of books and reviews can be. The text should be a kind of journey into the reader’s experience with a book, and which contains what every journey conceals: surprises, dizziness, unforeseen events… and a little regret on the way back, perhaps. But certainly a transformation.
You do not come back from a trip intact, and this is also true of a book. I experienced this kind of adventure this year with the novel Darkness, by Paul Kawczak, published in January in La Peuplade. This immersion in colonial madness in Congo in the 19th centurye century, which will be inscribed even in the very flesh of the characters, is a descent into hell paradoxically of great beauty. New dreams populated my nights for a while after.
I would add that when the pandemic arrived, I stumbled upon a dusty old book in my library, Fear in the West, essay by Jean Delumeau. The story of the ravages of the plague in remote centuries made me reconnect with the feeling of a common history of humanity, and six months after this enlightening reading, it is clear that we may be in 2020, we let us act in the same way as our ancestors in the face of calamities. There is often denial and stupidity, but always courage. Strangely, that reassured me.
Your Book of the Year could be a book of poetry, a novel, an essay or a comic book, what matters is the effect it has on you. You must first be able to name things for yourself before you can pass them on.
Why was I upset? Why is this book haunting me? Why do all the other books seem boring to me after this one? Why don’t I see the world the way it used to be (something that can happen, I swear)?
A watchword: be contagious. In this epidemic year, the reading virus is the only one that claims no victims and that we want as widespread as possible.
The deadline to submit your texts is February 15, 2021.