On a cold December night, Robert Lalonde’s house burned to the ground. Built and lovingly maintained over the last forty years with his wife, their home was reduced to a pile of rubble and ashes in the middle of a devastated garden. Firemen tried to save the four thousand books inside the burning house—alas, mostly in vain.
Though reduced to ashes and smoke, the books were waiting to be reborn.
Sifting through the burnt debris, the author finds, unscathed, Walt Whitman’s
Leaves of Grass. “I think I’m going to translate Whitman! All
Leaves of Grass!” he tells his wife. “That’ll keep me busy!”
For a whole year, he and his wife hobbled from one cottage to another, waiting for a new home to welcome them. From this tragedy, Robert Lalonde drew inspiration to write one of his most luminous books.
A star of film, stage and television, as well as a playwright and translator,
Robert Lalonde is one of Quebec’s leading novelists. The author of over
20 books, his first novel, La belle épouvante, won the 1981 Robert
Cliche Prize, while his Le Petit aigle à tête blanche won the
1994 Governor General’s Award for French Fiction, as well as the 1995
Prix France-Québec. Besides being nominated four other times for the Governor
General’s Award, his books have won a raft of prizes: from the 1982 Prix
Jean-Macé for Le Dernier été des indiens, to the 1985 Prix Paris-Québec
for Une belle journée d’avance, to the 1988 Grand Prix de la
Ville de Montréal for Le Fou du père, and the 1992 Prix des lectrices
Elle Québec for L’Ogre de Grand Remous. His translation of Anne
Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces was a finalist for the 1999 John Glassco
Prize. His previous novels published in translation by Ekstasis Editions
include The Ogre of Grand Remous, The Devil Incarnate, One Beautiful
Day to Come, The Whole Wide World, Seven Lakes Further North, The Last
Indian Summer, What Will I Become Until I Die?, Little Eagle with a White
Head, The Heart Is What Dies Last, The World on the Side of a Trout, The
Little Thief and Iotékha'.