Quebec's two solitudes come together, twentysomething-style, in "Les Incorrigibles"
"Peu importe la langue, it's the message that counts." That's the philosophy of friends Jasmine Papillon-Smith and Mali Navia, the bloggers behind Les Incorrigibles—a literate, creative, funny and profound bilingual blog about life as a twentysomething in Montreal.
As part of our series on great Canadian blogs, we chatted with Jasmine ("the anglo") and Mali ("la franco") about how they came up with Les Incorrigibles' unique concept: writing completely different English and French posts and publishing them in tandem.
Tell us about yourselves.
Jasmine: I am a 23-year-old Montrealer with a fascination for expression. I love listening to people with stories to tell, have a passion for producing and consuming visual art, and am into rap music for the poetry. I love reading, writing and painting. I study 3D animation and special effects, and work in translation and editing.
Mali: I am 25 years old and live in Montreal. I completed Communication Studies at Concordia University, but I was never good at answering these "about you" questions (ha ha). Obviously, I love writing and reading; I also travel a lot and believe that I am a huge consumer of visual culture.
How did you two meet?
We met while studying at Concordia University, within the context of the Communications Games, but we only started to seriously spend time together when we realized we had a strong mutual interest in storytelling and writing.
What gave you the idea to create Les Incorrigibles?
We were looking for an excuse to write regularly, and it helps when you have a set deadline to work toward every week. We both aspire to become authors, so Les Incorrigibles was the perfect platform to discover what writing and literary styles suited us best. Les Incorrigibles is a place we can ruthlessly and shamelessly look for our voices.
What's behind the name, "les Incorrigibles"?
Finding the name was a huge challenge because we wanted it to have a similar meaning in English and in French. Of course, with the language tension in Quebec, it was important to us that neither language group be turned off from the blog due to its name. We settled on it because it is a bit of tongue-in-cheek for the subjects we bring up on the blog, which frequently revolve around just how corrigible we really are.
What kinds of things do each of you most often blog about?
The blog is predominantly autofiction, in that we use our everyday lives to inspire the texts that we write.
Jasmine: I write about sex, love, friendship and family ties, very frequently doing so by addressing identity and the ways we juggle our social obligations and expectations. I mostly use humour and imagery to express these themes.
Mali: A large part of what I write revolves around relationships, be they about the dynamics between men and women, women and women, parents and children, etc. I also address the passage from childhood to adulthood and explore how that translates into a growing maturity. I use metaphors frequently to express these ideas.
The blog is unique. It's kind of bilingual, but kind of not. You both publish at the same time, but you're writing about different things. How did you decide upon this format?
We wanted a blog that represents Montreal as we see it. We felt the bilingualism of the blog should sound like the conversations we have every day: not arguments, but harmonies. We absolutely did not want to give more importance to one language than to the other (we both publish on the same day at the same time), but wanted to show how well ideas can be expressed when the languages come together. Although our styles are just as different as our languages, their themes and ideas complete each other, which is what it is really about.
Why not just have two different blogs?
Because blogs are scary! Writing autofiction has led to some interesting questions from the people in our surroundings, and they are a lot easier to face with someone hanging out to dry by your side. We blog together because it’s great to edit each other’s pieces every week, watch each other grow as writers, and balance each other out (our personalities differ in ways which make the fruits of compromise truly worthwhile). We show each other everything we write, even the things that aren’t worthy of being scrawled on bathroom stall walls. There is no judgement: we just work to make each other better.
Do you two find yourselves surprised by what the other writes?
All the time. The fact that we are friends makes it more surprising, because we can spend a Friday evening together, and never broach a topic. Come editing on Saturday morning, it is surprising to see what the other has been thinking about, and just how well she has managed to put a feeling or a thought you've always had into words.
What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers?
Discipline is really important, and so is keeping in mind the reason you’re blogging. Also, promotion: you can see our blog at lesincorrigibles.net, or follow us @jpapillonsmith and @malinavia, and like Les Incorrigibles on Facebook!
All images courtesy of Jasmine Papillon-Smith and Mali Navia.
Read profiles of other Canadian bloggers:
Toque and Canoe by Kim Gray and Jennifer Twyman
Redneck Mommy by Tanis Miller
Straight from the Arse by Ryan Arsenault
Couple of Yuppies by Jamie Munro and Kyle Foot
Obscure CanLit Mama by Carrie Anne Snyder
Le Blog du Rob by Rob Watson
The Art of Doing Stuff by Karen Bertelsen
Man on the Lam by Raymond Walsh
Ironic Mom by Leanne Shirtliffe
Clockwork Lemon by Stephanie Eddie
OffQc by Kevin Felix Polesello
Caker Cooking by Brian Francis
Maple Leaf Mamma by Michelle Tarnopolsky
Rolling Around In My Head by Dave Hingsburger
Dulcimer Dude by Frank Verpaelst
Ginger and Nutmeg by Carolyne and Andrew
The Book Dumpling by Andrea Borod