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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Tonight! Anvil Press Launch Party: Nelly Arcan in translation

Join us TONIGHT Wednesday, May 20th at 7 p.m. to celebrate the launch of two new English language Nelly Arcan translations from Anvil Press! Featuring Breakneck, translated by Jacob Homel, and Burqa of Skin, translated by Melissa Bull.

About Breakneck (À ciel ouvert): Rose Dubois and Julie O’Brien find themselves on a burning roof together, on a summer’s day, and from then on their fates intertwine, in a world where the natural force that is the changing climate foreshadows and encourages their predestined suffering. Rose and Julie’s submissive love for the same man, Charles, creates in them an arms race of artificial beauty and debasement. The first in their common obsession for plastic surgery and their attempts to be the avatar for the perfect female; the second in their acceptance of Charles’ objectifying sexual fetishes, his love for women as pieces of meat, and his controlling nature. However, both women come to realize that to accept being nothing more than an object, to kneel and grovel before your persecutor, you become his executioner.

Burqa of Skin (Burqa de chair) is a dense collection of writings from Arcan, channelling harrowing disenchantment and indignation. From her very first novel, Putain (Seuil, 2001), Arcan shook the literary landscape with her flamboyant lyricism and her preoccupations with such recurring themes as our culture’s vertiginous obsession with youth, and its reverse: the draw of death. Now beyond the ripples of scandal Arcan’s work has caused, here are the last echoes of her work, and it is as stunning as it is brief.

Burqa of Skin, with its gruesome title, catapults her work into contemporary debates on culture and gender. The book collects three previously unpublished works: “The Dress,” “The Child in the Mirror” and “Shame.” The first two are written in the first person, in that turbulent, suffocating language that was Arcan’s singular brand, that of a writer on the edge. In the third text, she analyses with inexhaustible ferocity her humiliating experience on the set of a TV talk show. Two lesser-known non-fiction pieces are also included in this collection: a reflection on speed dating and a column published in 2004 titled “Suicide Can Be Harmful to Your Health.”

Nelly Arcan was born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Her first novel, Putain, drawing on her experience working in the sex trade in Montreal, caused a sensation and gained immediate critical and media attention. It was a finalist for both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Femina, two of France's most prestigious literary awards. Three more novels followed, establishing her as a literary star in Quebec and France: Folle, À ciel ouvert, and L'enfant dans le miroir. Paradis, clef en main, her fourth novel, was completed just days before she committed suicide in 2009 at the age of thirty-six.  

About the translators:

Melissa Bull is a writer, editor and translator based in Montreal. Her writing has been featured in Event, Matrix, Lemon Hound, Broken Pencil, The Montreal Review of Books, Playboy and Maisonneuve. She has translated such authors as Nelly Arcan, Kim Thuy, Évelyne de la Chenlière, Raymond Bock, Alexandre Soublière and Maude Smith Gagnon for various publications. Melissa has a BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University and is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She is the 2013 winner of CBC's Hyperlocal Award, and is launching her first book of poetry, Rue, in May 2015.

Born, bred and raised in Montreal, Jacob Homel has translated or collaborated in the translation of a number of works, including Toqué: Creators of a Quebec Gastronomy, The Last Genet and the Weariness of the Selg. In 2012, he won the JI Segal Translation Prize for his translation of A Pinch of Time. He shares his time between Montreal and Asia.  

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