Ligne brisée, the French translation of The Break by Katherena Vermette, wins Combat des livres

Innu writer Naomi Fontaine was defending the novel, which was translated by Mélissa Verreault.
Naomi Fontaine is the winning panellist in Combat des livres, defending the French translation of The Break by Katherena Vermette.

Ligne brisée, the French translation of The Break by Katherena Vermette, won Combat des livres. Innu writer Naomi Fontaine was defending the novel, which was translated by Mélissa Verreault. 

Combat des livres, a five-day book debate show in French that is inspired by Canada Reads, was broadcast live on Radio-Canada from May 7 to 11, 2018. 

The show, which was moderated by Marie-Louise Arsenault, featured five panellists advocating for the one book they believe should win. Each book and panellist represented a different region in Canada. A public vote determined the winner.

During the debate, Fontaine stressed the relevance of the novel to Canada today.

"With the national inquiry [into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls], you realise that it is these women who come and tell the terrible things they went through... one may wonder: where did we fail as a society?" Fontaine said, in a statement translated by CBC Books.

"[Katherena Vermette] decided to address this social phenomenon by writing a novel. For me, it is a tribute to these women."

The other contenders were: 

  • Antonine Maillet, representing Atlantic Canada, defended Écorchée by Sara Tilley, translated by Annie Pronovost
  • ​Philippe-Audrey Larrue-St-Jacques, representing Quebec, defended Le jeu de la musique by Stéfanie Clermont
  • ​Russell Smith, representing Ontario, defended C'est le coeur qui lâche en dernier by Margaret Atwood, translated by Michèle Albaret-Maatsch
  • Ibrahima Diallo, representing western Canada, defend Le club des miracles relatifs by Nancy Huston

Three of the books are available in English: The Break by Katherena Vermette, The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood and Skin Room by Sara Tilley.

The Break was also a contender on Canada Reads. Candy Palmater defended the novel in 2017.

Combat des livres ran annually from 2004 to 2014, and returned from hiatus in 2018. Other books to have won Combat des livres include Parfum de poussière (De Niro's Game) by Rawi Hage, Aminata (The Book of Negroes) by Lawrence Hill and La Belle Bête (Mad Shadows) by Marie-Claire Blais.

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