“A smell of avalanche”: twilight loves

“Every day, he walked the streets of the neighborhood, peeking through the windows of the small apartments bordering the sidewalk. He was chasing the ordinary. »The neighborhood referred to in A smell of avalanche, it is the district of Plouffe and Alys Robi, a poor district of Quebec which has nothing ordinary in the imagination of Charles Quimper (Tide amount, Alto, 2017 ; Embers, Triptych, 2019). An imagination that recalls both the magical realism of André Forcier’s most beautiful films and the poetic universe of the irresistible tales of Fred Pellerin.

Three levels of story alternate in this puzzling novel. If the changes in tone and register can be annoying, we have to admit that each portion of the novel enriches the others, sheds new light on the events and their consequences over time, enriches the characters without stripping them of their own. mystery.

First, there is, told by an omniscient narrator, the story of a guy nicknamed Cowboy because of his John Wayne outfit, who “traveled, scoured all the great Prairies doing odd jobs there. genre ”. One evening, at the bar Le Kirouac, the old fellow fell in love with a mature beauty. “He had come hoping to meet a ghost, an angel draped in velvet: the Lady in Green. Every Tuesday evening, the queen of the continental stormed the dance floor, just after karaoke time. “

Next is the 1970s typewriter diary of Jacob, who lives with his mother and stepfather in a hotel where pilgrims once came. Recounting the unusual incidents he witnesses, he talks about his relationship with an enigmatic young girl. “The first time I saw Penelope, it was as if I had put my fingers in an outlet. We were no more than eight or nine years old. “

Similar to old newspaper clippings, follow the chronicles of Adjutor Leroux, “La pie de Saint-Sauveur”, in which are reported the cataclysms and the incredible phenomena that took place in Saint-Sauveur, including the apparitions of the Virgin, from the 1950s to the 1970s. “Dressed in light, she cracks her knuckles, puts on a pair of large smoked glasses that give her the air of Jackie Onassis, then she leaves the premises in the direction of Boulevard Charest. “

Apart from the district, which preserves its marvelous aspect through the ages, nothing seems to first connect the stories between them. A reader in a hurry, lazy, or not very curious might want to drop one part in order to focus on the others. Which would be a fatal mistake on his part. Neglecting one or the other of these parts would weaken the delicate structure of the novel. To miss a revealing detail or a recurring date. To risk imperfectly reconstruct this spatiotemporal fresco in which Quimper talks about love and mourning, skilfully juggling the playful, the romantic and the tragic.

A smell of avalanche

★★★

Charles Quimper, Alto, Quebec, 2021, 157 pages

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