The First Quarter of the Moon

By Michel Tremblay
Translated by Sheila Fischman

The First Quarter of the Moon
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It is June 20, 1952, a decade after the events described in The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant, the first volume of Michel Tremblay’s series of autobiographical fiction. The mystic, yet palpable instant of summer’s arrival is experienced simultaneously by the fat woman’s ... Read more


Overview

It is June 20, 1952, a decade after the events described in The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant, the first volume of Michel Tremblay’s series of autobiographical fiction. The mystic, yet palpable instant of summer’s arrival is experienced simultaneously by the fat woman’s son (who is never named) and Marcel. These moving, profoundly different epiphanies of a transforming world, seen through the memories of the characters, set the stage for the action of the novel which takes place in the space of this single, evocative day. The fat woman’s son experiences this moment as an episode of profound personal objectification—he sees himself as in a photo of that larger, inclusive moment. Marcel, on the other hand, literally seizes the moment, and stores it in his school bag as a physical thing.

It is also the day of final exams at the École Saint-Stanislas where the fat woman’s son, a boy who lives inside the books he loves, is in the “gifted” class, and his cousin Marcel, the “mad” family terror, is in the class for “slow learners. ” Racked by envy at what he sees as Marcel’s genius—his ability to create and function in another dimension of reality—the gifted child blanks out during the French exam.

The first quarter of the moon—which rises over the final scenes of the novel in which the fat woman’s son recognizes and acknowledges his cousin Marcel’s genius—is an exquisitely crafted and resonant metaphor for the symbiotic relation between the imaginary and the real, the privileged “educated elite” and the “great unwashed,” innocence and experience, sanity and madness.

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.

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“Touching and extra-real. ”
Quill & Quire

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