Friday, January 24, 2014

Bear by Marian Engel

A woman has sex with a bear. That's about all I knew about Marian Engel's novel Bear, and I have been meaning to read it for ages. When I spotted its beautiful purple cover at Audreys Books, I couldn't resist taking it home with me.

Originally published in 1976, this 2009 New Canadian Library edition has an afterword by Aritha Van Herk. Bonus! See my review of Tent PegAritha Van Herk's novel in which a woman has a mystical experience with a bear in northern Canada.

Van Herk writes that Bear has "been called an outrage, it's been called pornography, it's been called pastoral, mythological, gothic, none of which quite manages to say what this book does. It explodes, in as slow and tranced a way as is possible."

Yes, oh yes! And Engel does all of this in 115 pages. It's nuanced and gutsy and utterly unforgettable.

Two lines by poet Dahlia Ravikovitch sum up the internal transformation experienced by the woman in Bear.
"You don't know what's the matter with you."
"it all passes, and you are pure crystal."
(from "Surely You Remember")
Thank you to Shawna Lemay, for posting this poem on her Calm Things blog earlier today.

No comments: