The Second Substance

By Anne Lardeux
Translated by Pablo Strauss

The Second Substance
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Squatters at a rural gas station try to find freedom and build something new on the ashes of our petrocivilization in this sensual novel.

A community of outsiders takes over an abandoned gas station. They spend their days ripping up asphalt, drinking beer and eating hot dogs, ... Read more


Overview

Squatters at a rural gas station try to find freedom and build something new on the ashes of our petrocivilization in this sensual novel.

A community of outsiders takes over an abandoned gas station. They spend their days ripping up asphalt, drinking beer and eating hot dogs, and wandering through woods and towns in search of new ways of living. People come and go: a charismatic landscaper, Italian anarchists, a policewoman, travellers. A teenager drifts into homelessness. And The Girl With No Name keeps a journal of her attempts to meet new people and sleep with them, sex that is “not a sideline” but the motivating force in a story she is struggling to understand.

Neighbors grow hostile. An investigation threatens the community. Tension builds between the surface violence of “normal life” and the attempt of these outsiders to experience freedom and build something new on the ashes of our oil-addicted society.

With a character borrowed from Agnès Varda’s Vagabond and inspiration taken from Anne Boyer’s writings, Anne Lardeux’s highly original debut assembles elements of poetry, film, and visual arts into an exuberant choral novel, an ode to the daughters of fire and to the poetry of the body. Often funny, sometimes raunchy, consistently surprising, never flinching, The Second Substance heralds an important new voice in Quebec literature.

Anne Lardeux

Anne Lardeux was raised in France and lives and works in Montreal, where she painstakingly follows her ideas and convictions where they lead. Her multidisciplinary practice spans music, film, and writing, and is not easily separable from her social activism and caring work. Together they constitute an unsparingly honest but playful interrogation of how we live that turns up glimmers of hope in unlikely places. The Second Substance (Les mauvais plis) is her first novel.

Pablo Strauss

Pablo Strauss’s previous translations for Coach House Books are The Country Will Bring Us No Peace, The Supreme Orchestra, and Baloney. He is a two-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for translation, for Synapses (2019) and The Longest Year (2017). Pablo grew up in Victoria, B.C., and has lived in Quebec City for fifteen years.

Reviews

"After reading [The Second Substance], you may forget how to read from left to right, or walk by putting one foot in front of the other … A mix of black humour, the absurd, and little stories in a highly inventive style …" - Le Matricule des Anges (France)

"A strongly erotic first novel swept along by free, sensual writing, an ode to the daughters of fire and the poetry of the body. " - Les libraires (Quebec)

"Walk in the woods, hunt, chop wood, fuck, sleep — and the cycle repeats… a return to animal instincts and the senses […] A compelling first novel with a surprising mastery of language and style. " - Bruno Cloutier (Quebec)

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