Author Bindu Suresh gives us the poetry of line expanded in her novel 26 Knots(Invisible Publishing), about the tangled stories of four Montrealers and their success and failure at finding love. In this ALU Read the Provinces feature, Bindu shares more about the book and explains that while she might have grown up in Saskatchewan and Alberta, writing doesn't have to be influenced solely by where you're from, but where you feel most happy. Read on for the full interview and an excerpt from the book, below!
All Lit Up: Tell us about your novel 26 Knots and how it came to be.
Bindu Suresh:26 Knots is a short novel of episodic, poetic prose that tells the story of four Montrealers who variably succeed and fail at loving one another until larger, older entanglements intervene. It came from the love stories that I lived, witnessed and read in my early 20s. The plot wove itself together gradually from the three points I started from: a man who raises the child his ex had with someone else, another man’s search for his father, and a woman who was left but continues to love anyway. Since my primordial concern as a writer is the beauty of the individual line (before I wrote prose, I wrote poetry!), each chapter – or ‘knot’ – was usually born of a poetic line that then grew and expanded outward to drive the plot and characters forward.
ALU: It's been argued that physical geography shapes our identity, that there's a connection between our physical place in the world and who we are. As a writer, in what ways does your natural environment inform your writing?
BS: I do think my physical environment shaped who I am; I grew up in Saskatchewan and Alberta and still feel nowhere more at home than while hiking in the Rockies or driving through the far-stretching plains. But I think this connection works the other way, too – that you are who you are and that you choose a place to live (and, in my case, write about) that complements you. I am happiest in urban environments, living alongside other people and surrounded by the full richness of humanity’s works (beautiful architecture, going to see a brilliant play, a hipster wine bar), and so most of my chosen life and fictional settings have been in cityscapes (New York, Buenos Aires, the neighbourhoods of Montreal). I live in and write about Montreal; for me, who I am informed my choice of natural environment, which in turn informed my writing.
ALU: Who are some of your favourite Quebec-based writers?
Years later, he would reach out for her hand as she walked, oblivious, past where he was standing on the train paused at Lionel-Groulx. By then she will have drawn the nectar from every memory, dried the fallen petals with constant thought—the slightly ridiculous sway of his hips to jazz, the kisses in her creased palms as they made love, his crescent body arched around hers in the morning moonlight.
But then, on that warm June afternoon, that life was just beginning—Araceli and Adrien were simply two young journalists, their future before them like a field of long, swaying grass. “This is my first fire,” she had said, opening the slim spiral notebook to a blank page as they watched charred fragments of building chip from the facade, covering the ground before them like a slow and purposeful rain.
Adrien stood over his kitchen counter with a screwdriver, cracking open thick-shelled oysters and placing them in a glass bowl. Sébastien, a friend of Adrien’s from the Gaspé who was staying with him for the summer, stood next to him, his leg outstretched to keep Adrien’s black cat from jumping up onto the counter.
Araceli was looking at a photograph on the fridge. It had been cut in half, on an angle; it showed Adrien, his back against the ocean, his hair wet and tucked behind his ears. His right arm had been cut off at the shoulder, a perfect scissor-line caressing his cheek.
“I’d been at TVA for a year when the CBC called and offered me a job,” Adrien said, his lips pursed as square fragments of shell fell into the sink. He gave a sheepish shrug. “So I said, well, yes, it’s the CBC, so.”
“So, you said yes,” Araceli said, touching the edge of the photograph. “Is this the Gaspé?”
“It is,” Adrien said. He paused, turning away slightly to wipe his wet hands on a dishtowel. “But come, I have better pictures.”
In the living room he pulled out an album with dark blue covers. He put his arm around Araceli’s waist as she flipped past seascapes, a picture of Adrien’s sister against the Atlantic with a child in each arm. He placed his hand, shyly, on her leg.
“What do you think, Sébastien,” he said, calling out toward the kitchen. “Isn’t the Gaspé the most beautiful place in the world?”
He pressed his lips gently against her neck. “Chez nous.”
That night Adrien and Araceli made love for three hours. On the balcony under the moon and the swaying trees, in the humid summer air—her hands above her head and her fingers laced through his—he would stop to kiss her, still inside her.
Inside the bedroom, warm, his blond body curved around hers and their legs interwoven, because drying each other’s skin with the rough purple towels had ended with her pushed against the tiled wall, his mouth on her throat, Araceli said, “I want to get to know you better.”
Adrien laughed. Araceli nestled into his vocal cords as they rumbled against her forehead.
“What do you want to know?”
“I don’t know,” she said lightly, but thought: What did your face look like before? And the other day, when you were out on the stairs—were you crying? How do you behave around the people you do not love?
Adrien sat up and pulled Araceli onto his lap, folding his arms underneath her chest.
“It’s just that we’re so sex-centric. If we’re left alone for five seconds we end up making love, wherever we are.” “That’s what couples do when they’re falling for each other,” he said, kissing her on the cheek. “We have all summer to get to know each other.”
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A former journalist and current paediatrician, Bindu Suresh is the author of short stories that have appeared in various literary publications. She studied literature at Columbia University and medicine at McGill University. Born in Wales, she grew up in Canada and has spent equal parts of her life in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. She currently lives in Montreal. 26 Knots (Invisible Publishing) is her debut novel.
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