Books·Canadian

Querelle of Roberval by Kevin Lambert

A novel about class struggle and politics in a small Quebec town, translated from French to English by Donald Winkler.

A novel about class struggle and politics in a small Quebec town

As a millworkers' strike in the northern lumber town of Roberval drags on, tensions start to escalate between the workers—but when a lockout renews their solidarity, they rally around the mysterious and magnetic influence of Querelle, a dashing newcomer from Montreal.

Strapping and unabashed, likeable but callow, by day he walks the picket lines and at night moves like a mythic Adonis through the ranks of young men who flock to his apartment for sex. As the dispute hardens and both sides refuse to yield, sand stalls the gears of the economic machine and the tinderbox of class struggle and entitlement ignites in a firestorm of passions carnal and violent.

Trenchant social drama, a tribute to Jean Genet's antihero, and a brilliant reimagining of the ancient form of tragedy, Querelle of Roberval, winner of France's Marquis de Sade Prize, is a wildly imaginative story of justice, passion, and murderous revenge. (From Biblioasis)

Querelle of Roberval is a finalist for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers's Trust Fiction Prize. The winner will be announced on Nov. 2, 2022.

Atwood Gibson Prize jury citation: "Kevin Lambert's fearless novel is a profane, funny, bleak, touching, playful, and outrageous satire of sexual politics, labour, and capitalism. In ecstatic and cutting prose, it gleefully illuminates both the broad socio-political tensions of life in a Quebec company town and the intimate details of sex, lust, loneliness, and gay relationships in such a place. Like its central character, the book is brash, beautiful, quasi-mythic, and tragic. Most improbably, for all its daring and provocation, Querelle of Roberval is lyrically, even tenderly written."

Kevin Lambert's fearless novel is a profane, funny, bleak, touching, playful, and outrageous satire of sexual politics, labour, and capitalism.- 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize jury

Kevin Lambert is a writer from Quebec. You Will Love What You Have Killed is his first novel, and the first to be translated into English. 

Donald Winkler is a filmmaker and translator from Montreal. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English translation for The Lyric Generation: The Life and Times of the Baby-Boomers by François Ricard, Partitia for Glenn Gould by Georges Leroux and The Major Verbs by Pierre Nepveu. Two books translated by him have been finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize: A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin in 2007 and Arvida by Samuel Archibald in 2015.

Why Kevin Lambert wrote Querelle of Roberval

"All of my books start from a political question. Querelle of Roberval is set in Quebec. It is about the landscapes and the geographies where I grew up. It's a place where many people work for these large multinational companies that exploit the local resources. It gives a weird atmosphere and structure because you never see the faceless bosses of these companies but everybody works for them.

In this story, there are no gods, but their fight against capitalism is as desperate as the fight of all classic tragic characters.- Kevin Lambert

"I was interested in figuring out how one might fight against these structures — who is the enemy? The characters in the book go on strike to improve their working conditions. They think that their enemy is with their immediate boss. But they soon discover that it's much broader than this — the enemy is our social structures.

"That's why it's written as tragedy. Because in tragedy, characters fight against the gods. In this story, there are no gods, but their fight against capitalism is as desperate as the fight of all classic tragic characters."

Read more from his interview with CBC Books.

More interviews with Kevin Lambert

Author Kevin Lambert wanted to do something very original with his compelling novel, Querelle of Roberval: In the midst of a serious worker's strike in a lumber town in Quebec's Saguenay region, which eventually turns violent, sex is front, center and racy as ever. The award-winning author explains why and he shares how the bus-ride to school inspired his book, now up for the Atwood Gibson Writer's Trust Fiction Prize. And, he also provides some pretty spot-on Pop music analysis !
Québécois writer Kevin Lambert may only be 28 years old, but his dark novels have already made him an award-winning author. Lambert joins guest host David Common to discuss his recently translated debut novel 'You Will Love What You Have Killed' — and his newfound success.

Other books by Kevin Lambert

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