The Red Notebook

By Michel Tremblay
Translated by Sheila Fischman

The Red Notebook
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From the theatre of Euripides to the theatre of Montreal’s Main, Michel Tremblay casts some of his most famous and exotic personae, The Duchess, Fine Dumas, Jean-le-Décollé and Babalu, in a whole new light in his new Notebooks. Unlike his Plateau Mount Royal novels, wherein ... Read more


Overview

From the theatre of Euripides to the theatre of Montreal’s Main, Michel Tremblay casts some of his most famous and exotic personae, The Duchess, Fine Dumas, Jean-le-Décollé and Babalu, in a whole new light in his new Notebooks. Unlike his Plateau Mount Royal novels, wherein these flamboyant transvestites and their community of social misfits are seen from the perspective of a child destined to discover the defining characteristic of his own otherness as gay, the Notebooks are narrated in the voice of a young woman, and one whose difference is not primarily determined by her sexuality, but by her highly visible physical deformity—Céline Poulin is a midget.

The year is 1967—Expo—and everyone in Montreal is waiting for the great day when they can visit its exotic foreign pavilions. For the characters of The Red Notebook, the second in this trilogy, life in Montreal has shaken off its conservative glumness as a new age arrives. Change is everywhere in the air: politically the Quebec independence movement has been given a major boost by Charles de Gaulle’s famous “Vive le Québec libre!” declaration; and things will never be the same. Céline Poulin, former waitress at the bohemian hangout “Le Sélect,” is now about to start a new job: that of hostess in a bordello just opened by Montreal’s famous Madame, Fine Dumas. Its specialty? All the “girls” in “Le Boudoir” are transvestites. Some are old pals of Céline’s who’ll also be her room-mates after she finally escapes the stifling unhappiness of her family home and moves into their communal boarding house.

Having always maintained that he does not write politics, but fables, Tremblay celebrates how it is possible for Céline to embrace her difference and to flourish in solidarity with a community of others with transcendent eloquence and compassion.

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.

Reviews

“Tremblay’s characters don’t merely exist, they live out complex, sprawling lives. ”
Globe & Mail

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