With this astounding fourth novel in her ongoing series of contemporary masterpieces, Marie Claire Blais invites us again to enter a complex circle of unforgettable characters But this time, the tone is different Blais writing has acquired a new, buoyant, electrifying rhythm a rhythm described as the heartbeat of the world As we follow a central character named Rebecca, the voice in the novel becomes the voice of the world inventing itself, and the future playing itself out Here Nigel Spencer, Marie Claire Blais longtime translator, gives us Blais singular vision in supple English prose that is as transcendent and nuanced as the original French


10 thoughts on “Rebecca, Born in the Maelstrom

  1. Edwin Lang Edwin Lang says:

    Last night I watched a film called The Good Catholic, a very light comedy drama about three Franciscan s living together and running a small parish somewhere in the U.S Although the film was about the youngest of the three and his relationship with the two veteran priests and with a young woman, a singer songwriter he met through the Confessional late one evening What caught my attention, perhaps in the context of Blais work, was a brief episode in which the actor John C McGinley, a Basketbal Last night I watched a film called The Good Catholic, a very light comedy drama about three Franciscan s living together and running a small parish somewhere in the U.S Although the film was about the youngest of the three and his relationship with the two veteran priests and with a young woman, a singer songwriter he met through the Confessional late one evening What caught my attention, perhaps in the context of Blais work, was a brief episode in which the actor John C McGinley, a Basketball loving and sugar addict Franciscan who as one might easily imagine knowing the characters he often plays as he did in Scrubs gave a brief but wonderful and extremely heartfelt homily on what having compassion means can you suffer with another That is what I felt in reading Marie Claire Blais Rebecca, Born in the Maelstrom I know a lot of people bright, well educated, ambitious and good people who can t bear to read a newspaper because of the darkness present there I had the sense though that people matter to Blais, and that she is interested in social justice and in people s pain, and that her eyes are wide open and non judgmental I was surprised when on finishing Marie Claire Blais book on Jan 27th 2018 I discovered purely by chance that that this was the anniversary of Mahalia Jackson s death in 1972 at the age of 61 As Harry Belafonte described her and the role of the Church in civil rights movement, she was likely a modern day saint It had been Jackson who, as Martin Luther King was finishing his speech in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963 twice mentioned in the Rebecca called out Tell them about the dream, Martin There did seem a dreaminess about Blais Rebecca a stream of consciousness about it even though there were many narrators in this story written sometime in the late 2000 s and one can feel the presence of injustice, poverty, violence, anguish and to some degree the modern threat of terrorism There are four main voices One is Esther, known as Mere , perhaps a matriarch, now in her mid 80s, with her friends lovers like Suzanne, Caroline vanishing as the old do I liked her presence as she seemed intelligent, kind, observant and reflective, opinionated but discrete in her opinions, who loved the arts and artists and her family, especially it seemed her granddaughter Mai Mai s the second main voice, and is the 14 year daughter of Melanie, a politician perhaps even President of the country this mainly took place in a teenager full of angst, going to school, dating a 18 year old who s driving his father s Mercedes and missing her too often away mother and her similarly absent albeit mentally father, who is a self preoccupied and somewhat frustrated writer The third is Ari, an artist, separated with a daughter, who is travelling in Guatemala with his monk friend Ashok and in anguish over the misery he sees The fourth is Tigli, my favorite, who happens to be on the same bus as Ari, and who is a fireman midwife, possibly dying of AIDS, seated next to and helping a 14 year, impregnated and abandoned and on the verge of giving birth There are other voices but it seems to be Mai, Mere and Tigli that give form and life to the story Ari like Augustino, Alphonso the would be terrorist and perhaps much of the story all are like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, in the background presaging doom, doom we are all doomed Tigli though, possibly dying from AIDS, is radiant full of life and full of the love of life I was intrigued by Blais treatment of Chuan I liked her she has a strong, reoccurring presence and has a few things we hear her say from time to time She s smart and ambitious, a good wife, a good mother, is pretty in pink as the hostess at a major Christmas party, is a professional and very successful designer architect for a developer of hotels resorts and reads She s given though no voice we never hear her thoughts I think Chuan is from Hong Kong, and in Cantonese Chuan means to simply pass through I wondered amid the cacophony of Blais characterizations it almost seemed to have been Chuan who she was signalling out because of all the characters in the story even joyous Tigli she seemed paradoxically the embodiment of success but seemed asleep Blais is quoted somewhere as saying personally, I don t like suffering I prefer serenity I am not at all a dark person it s just that so many of my friends seem to have an aptitude for suffering the world is a terrible place but we have the tools to change We have just to wake up I liked Blais writing it seemedpoetry than novel, in the classic sense of what we expect from a novel But nonetheless, what Blais has to say, her characterizations, the sense of drama, were real and as in the best stories stay in our minds and heads I think she also had something important to say and said it well, in spite of the lack of punctuation.Edwin


  2. Catherine Catherine says:

    J ai t incapable de poursuivre ma lecture pour plus de 10 pages Il n y a aucun paragraphe, aucun point C est essouflant et difficile de comprendre l histoire Dommage


  3. Kimberly Kimberly says:

    Beautiful content Exhausting format.