Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kuessipan by Naomi Fontaine

Naomi Fontaine, an Innu from the Uashat and Mani-utenam reserve in eastern Quebec, writes about her community in Kuessipan. It's a novel written in vignettes that are rather like scenes in a documentary film, with images created from words.

The English translation by David Homel captures the succinct poetry of Fontaine's words.

"Of course I lied. I threw a white veil over the dirt."

Stark beauty coexists with substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and men who die far too young. Traditional culture offers solid ground for lost souls.

"The Innu language is like music that you sing, with slow intonations that you stretch out further with your breath. There are no vowels, and that makes the language impenetrable, like a return to nature: harsh, all bark and antlers."

The narrator does not try to be anyone other than her true self. She has come through difficulties and faces reality with a clear eye: "grass doesn't naturally grow on sand." She looks with confidence to the future.

A quietly triumphant gem.

No comments: