Books·Canadian

Swallowed

A new translation of Réjean Ducharme’s debut novel that rocked a generation

Réjean Ducharme, translated by Madeleine Stratford

In 1966, Réjean Ducharme, then a 24-year-old unknown, published L'Avalée des avalés, this debut novel that would go on to serve as a zeitgeist for several generations of French-Canadian readers. An English-language edition of the book hasn't been in print since 1968, and has never before been available in Canada.

At nine years old, Berenice feels trapped by home, family and dogmas, both real and invented. Precocious and over-intelligent, she despises her dysfunctional parents too viciously, loves her brother Christian too passionately and follows the logical pirouettes of her imagination to conclusions too dangerous. She lives on a secluded island, where she hatches plans to run away with Christian and escape her mother's needy overtures for affection. When on the cusp of puberty Berenice becomes too wild for even her parents to control, she's sent to live in New York with her father's ultra-religious relatives where, pushed to confine her impulses, she instead forces herself forward to new extremes.

Gripping and hallucinatory, Swallowed is every bit as shocking and relevant today as it was upon first publication in 1966. (From Esplanade Books)

Réjean Ducharme was a novelist and playwright from Montreal. He is a three-time winner of a Governor General's Literary Award, twice for French-language fiction and once for French-language drama. Other books by him that have been translated into English include Miss Take and The Daughter of Christopher Columbus. He died in 2017.

Stratford is a poet, professor and translator, who has translated works in English, French, German and Spanish. She also translated The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline into French.

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