The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant

By Michel Tremblay
Translated by Sheila Fischman

The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant
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It is the glorious second day of May, 1942. The sun is drawing the damp from earth still heavy with the end of a long Quebec winter, the budding branches of the trees along rue Fabre and in Parc Lafontaine of the Plateau Mont Royal ache to release their leaves into the warm, ... Read more


Overview

It is the glorious second day of May, 1942. The sun is drawing the damp from earth still heavy with the end of a long Quebec winter, the budding branches of the trees along rue Fabre and in Parc Lafontaine of the Plateau Mont Royal ache to release their leaves into the warm, clear air heralding the approach of summer.

Seven women in this raucous Francophone working-class Montreal neighbourhood are pregnant—only one of them, “the fat woman,” is bearing a child of true love and affection. Next door to the home that is by times refuge, asylum, circus-arena, confessional and battleground to her extended family, with ancient roots in both rural Quebec and the primordial land of the Saskatchewan Cree, stands an immaculately kept but seemingly empty house where the fates, Rose, Mauve, Violet and their mother Florence, only ever fleetingly and uncertainly glimpsed by those in a state of emotional extremis, are knitting the booties of what will become the children of a whole new nation.

In this first of six novels that became his Chronicles of the Plateau Mont Royal, Tremblay allows his imagination free reign, fictionalizing the lives of his beloved characters, dramatized so brilliantly in his plays and remembered so poignantly in his memoirs. “The fat woman” both is and is not Michel Tremblay’s mother—her extended family and neighbours more than a symbol of a colonized people: abandoned and mocked by France; conquered and exploited by England; abused and terrorized by the Church; and forced into a war by Canada supporting the very powers that have crushed their spirit and twisted their souls since time immemorial. This is a “divine comedy” of the extraordinary triumphs and tragedies of ordinary people caught up by circumstances that span the range of the ridiculous to the sublime.

Michel Tremblay

A major figure in Québec literature, Michel Tremblay has built an impressive body of work as a playwright, novelist, translator, and screenwriter. To date Tremblay’s complete works include twenty-nine plays, thirty-one novels, six collections of autobiographical stories, a collection of tales, seven screenplays, forty-six translations and adaptations of works by foreign writers, nine plays and twelve stories printed in diverse publications, an opera libretto, a song cycle, a Symphonic Christmas Tale, and two musicals. His work has won numerous awards and accolades; his plays have been published and translated into forty languages and have garnered critical acclaim in Canada, the United States, and more than fifty countries around the world.

Sheila Fischman

Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Sheila Fischman was raised in Ontario and is a graduate of the University of Toronto. She is a founding member of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada and has also been a columnist for the Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette, a broadcaster with CBCRadio, and literary editor of the Montreal Star. She now devotes herself full time to literary translation, specializing in contemporary Québec fiction, and has translated more than 125 Québec novels by, among others, Michel Tremblay, Jacques Poulin, Anne Hébert, François Gravel, Marie-Claire Blais, and Roch Carrier.Sheila Fischman has received numerous honours, including the 1998 Governor General’s Award (for her translation of Michel Tremblay’s Bambi and Me for Talonbooks); she has been a finalist fourteen times for this award. She has received two Canada Council Translation Prizes and two Félix-Antoine Savard Awards from Columbia University. In 2000, she was invested into the Order of Canada and, in 2008, into the Ordre national du Québec, and, in 2008, she received the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize for her outstanding contributions to Canadian literature. She holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Ottawa and Waterloo. Fischman currently resides in Montréal.

Awards

  • Canada Reads Competition 2009, Short-listed

Reviews

“A loving celebration of fertility and hope … Fischman has faithfully retained the tenderness and tone of the original … ”— Canadian Literature

“At the end of Tremblay’s career one will likely be able to sew together all his plays and novels and discover that we have been privileged to read the works of a veritable Québécois Marcel Proust. ”
Canadian Book Review Annual

“One of the top ten works of fiction of the century. ”
Montreal Gazette

“The language of The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant—it’s properly heard as a novel of voices—creates a neighbourhood tuned to the harmonies of pregnancy, to the awe of life about to be lived. There are some lovely, moving scenes. Tremblay is nothing if not eloquent, and he’s found a deft poetry to speak his tribute here. ” — Books in Canada

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