A Covenant of Salt

By (author): Martine Desjardins

Translated by: Fred A. Reed

Since the death of her parents in 1791, Lily McEvoy has lived as a recluse in her isolated Armagh County manor with her two maidservants and Titus, the farmhand who has become her whipping boy. But tonight, the heiress is expecting company. Her guest is Master Anselm, the legendary stone cutter who has transformed the estate’s abandoned salt mine into an immense funerary monument to the memory of the McEvoy family, sculpting bas-reliefs in the chapels, crypts and tombs he has carved out of the rock salt of its cavernous walls.

Lily is sniffing powdered salt in the attic as she summons the shadow of her father, the cruel Irish Rear Admiral Magnus McEvoy, hero of the capture of Quebec and absolute master of his estate, and of her mother, the mysterious Laurence, she of the webbed feet who emerged from the river of a stormy night.

But the same salt that has preserved Lily’s memories is desiccating her. Her obsession with the past now risks transforming her, like Lot’s wife, into a pillar of salt—crystallized by the family’s abominable secrets. These secrets, and the instrument of her revenge, she will today finally reveal to Anselm over their precipitous evening meal.

Drawing from the history of the conquest of Quebec and Irish legend, this is an exotic new way to tell a very old story.

AUTHOR

Fred A. Reed

A three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation, and shortlisted for his 2009 translation of Thierry Hentsch’s Le temps aboli (Empire of Desire), Fred A. Reed has translated works by many of Quebec’s leading authors, several in collaboration with novelist David Homel, as well as works by Nikos Kazantzakis and other modern Greek writers. His most recent work, with David Homel, includes Philippe Arsenault’s Zora and Martine Desjardins’ The Green Chamber. Baraka Books will publish his translation, from Modern Greek, of Yannis Tsirbas’ Vic City Express in September. His latest book is Then We Were One: Fragments of Two Lives, an autobiographical essay, published in French by Fides Éditeur.


AUTHOR

Martine Desjardins

Martine Desjardins was born in the Town of Mount Royal, Québec, in 1957. The second child of six, she started writing short stories when she was seventeen. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Russian and Italian studies at the Université de Montréal, she went on to complete a master’s degree in comparative literature, exploring humour in Dostoevsky’s The Devils. She worked as an assistant editor-in-chief at ELLE Québec magazine for four years before leaving to devote herself to writing. Presently she works as a freelance rewriter, translator and journalist for L’actualité, an award-winning French-language current affairs magazine in Canada. Her first novel, Le cercle de Clara, was published by Leméac in 1997, and was nominated for both the Prix littéraires du Québec and the Grand prix des lectrices de ELLE Québec in 1998. Desjardins currently lives in the Town of Mount Royal. In her free time, she paints miniature models of ruins overgrown with vegetation.

Reviews

“Mining from the past, Desjardins extracts treasures without ‘getting caught,’ and surfaces like a breath of fresh air. A Covenant of Salt marries literary traditions in a sleek gothic ceremony, silvery salt sprinkled like confetti and the Saint Lawrence coursing through.
Montreal Review of Books


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Excerpts & Samples ×

Since the death of her parents in 1791, Lily McEvoy has lived as a recluse in her isolated Armagh County manor with her two maidservants and Titus, the farmhand who has become her whipping boy. But tonight, the heiress is expecting company. Her guest is Master Anselm, the legendary stone cutter who has transformed the estate’s abandoned salt mine into an immense funerary monument to the memory of the McEvoy family, sculpting bas-reliefs in the chapels, crypts and tombs he has carved out of the rock salt of its cavernous walls.

Lily is sniffing powdered salt in the attic as she summons the shadow of her father, the cruel Irish Rear Admiral Magnus McEvoy, hero of the capture of Quebec and absolute master of his estate, and of her mother, the mysterious Laurence, she of the webbed feet who emerged from the river of a stormy night.

But the same salt that has preserved Lily’s memories is desiccating her. Her obsession with the past now risks transforming her, like Lot’s wife, into a pillar of salt—crystallized by the family’s abominable secrets. These secrets, and the instrument of her revenge, she will today finally reveal to Anselm over their precipitous evening meal.

Drawing from the history of the conquest of Quebec and Irish legend, this is an exotic new way to tell a very old story.

Reader Reviews

Details

Dimensions:

160 Pages
5.5in * 140mm * 0.5in13mm
223gr
7.875oz216mm * 8.5in

Published:

September 01, 2008

City of Publication:

Vancouver

Country of Publication:

CA

Publisher:

Talonbooks

ISBN:

9780889225664

9781772013337 – EPUB

9780889229907 – EPUB

9780889228788 – EPUB

9780889227040 – EPUB

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9780889228832 – EPUB

9781772011913 – EPUB

9780889229914 – EPUB

Book Subjects:

FICTION / Literary

Featured In:

All Books

Language:

eng

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