THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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Andrée Michaud to talk at London's inaugural Festival America
Andrée tells us about her novel, The Last Summer, and London's upcoming celebration of North American literature
Where are you from, and how did you get involved in Festival America's inaugural London programme?
I’m living in Saint-Sébastien-de-Frontenac, the village where I was born, in the province of Québec, and I have to say that I’m profoundly attached to this region, which has inspired most of my novels.
I have been invited to Festival America in London because I will also be at the America Festival in Vincennes, the week before, and because one of my novels, The Last Summer, was published in London by No Exit Press last year.
Festival America is a celebration of Transatlantic literature and culture. How important is it to safeguard and celebrate Transatlantic culture?
As much as it is to safeguard any culture. I think no book, no writer, no literature can exist if it has no contact with other books, other writers, other literature. I would have never become the writer I am if I hadn’t read Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Jean-Paul Sartre, Colette, Javier Marías and so many other European writers. I would have never been the same if I didn’t have the opportunity to know the work of European painters, directors or musicians. A culture can’t survive by itself, without all the influences, all the transcultural exchanges that made it unique in its own way.
How will you be participating in the Festival? Are you discussing a particular work of yours?
I will take part at a round table at the Malborough House on Tuesday 25th September with two other Canadian writers, Cherie Dimaline and Nancy Lee, where we will be discussing our last novels. For my part, I’ll talk about my last translated novel, The Last Summer (I since published another novel in French), in which two teenagers disappear in the woods during the hot and sunny summer of '67.
What makes American and Canadian literature special?
The fact that our literature is very young compared to European literature and the fact, mainly, that we live in a totally different environment, where wide open spaces and endless horizons are everywhere. To say like my life companion always says, American and Canadian culture and literature are horizontals, they grow into large spaces, while European culture and literature are more verticals, more grounded in time.
How do you reflect on your cultural connections through your work?
First of all, most of my novels take place in the country, nearby lakes, woods or rivers that reflects the importance of nature in my universe. I also place three of my novels on the borders of Canada and the United States to explore the links and the differences between the culture, the language and the particularities of those two countries. I also wanted to explore, through fiction, the way we occupy the space and how the geological and climatic aspects of our countries have an effect on our way of living, of thinking, of consuming. It’s the case in The Last Summer, which takes place nearby a border lake named Boundary Pond, at the frontier of Maine and Québec.
What do you hope visitors to Festival America, and your talk in particular, will take away from the experience?
That literature is a universal language and the best way to know and understand each other. I would also like to give them, of course, the desire to read my books, to follow me in the woods and to discover the literature of my country.
What's the best thing about being part of Festival America's London programme this September?
To see London again and to visit some parks or grounds I didn’t have the opportunity to visit in the past but, mainly, to discover other voices, other writers with whom I will be able to feel that we walk on a common ground and, ideally, to discover a work that will slap me in the face, knock me right in the sternum, and let me be happy forever...
Andrée Michaud will be speaking at a talk on September 25 at Marlborough House on Pall Mall, from 12 noon, on the subject of 'Canadian women from West to East'. Click here to buy tickets.