It’s a long way from a basement apartment in a Montreal suburb to a new life on a fictional planet in this novel by Jean-Christophe Réhel.

Jean-Christophe Réhel, translated by Katherine Hastings and Peter McCambridge

It's a long way from a basement apartment in a Montreal suburb to a new life on a fictional planet, but that's the destination our unnamed narrator has set his sights on, bringing readers with him on an off-beat and often hilarious journey.

Along the way, he writes poems, buys groceries at the dollar store and earns minimum wage at a dead-end supermarket job. In between treatments for his cystic fibrosis and the constant drip-drip-drip of disappointment, he dreams of a new life on Tatouine, where he'll play Super Mario Bros and make sand angels all day.

But in the meantime, he'll have to make do with daydreams of a better life. (From QC Fiction)

Tatouine is on the Canada Reads 2021 longlist.

Jean-Christophe Réhel is a writer from Quebec. He has written several collections of poetry. Tatouine is his first novel, and it is his first book available in English.

Katherine Hastings is a translator and copyeditor from Quebec. She also translated the novels The Electric Baths and The Unknown Huntsman, both by by Jean-Michel Fortier.

Peter McCambridge is an editor and translator from Quebec. His translation of Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont was a finalist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

From the book

My bed takes on the shape of my body. When I walk, I take on the shape of the sidewalk. When I speak, I take on the shape of all the garbage I spout. I run through my list of meds. There are so many, all of them keeping me alive. Good job, meds. But today I've run out of some. I call the lab at the drugstore. The pharmacist knows me well. She always opens with, "What can I do for you, love?" I reel off my list like it's a grocery order. Colistin bananas, Advair Diskus with lettuce, and a syringe loaf. Yes, thank you, that's very kind. I go up to the kitchen. It doesn't look like Norm is home. I peer out the window, take a look to see if there are any birds around, think of Return of the Jedi. I go read up about Jedi knights online. There are all kinds of books and parallel stories set before, during, and after the movies. I explore the hundreds and hundreds of made-up planets, species, spaceships, weapons, and types of food. I'd like to eat Lamta. I could be brushing up on socialism in postwar Germany or reading the philosophical works of Kierkegaard, but instead I'd rather know that the Jedi High Council sits on the planet Coruscant. I make myself two slices of toast with Norm's Cheez Whiz. I don't think of his teeth. I promise myself I'll go buy some groceries and drop by the pharmacy. I have another look for birds. There's got to be at least one.

From Tatouine by Jean-Christophe Réhel. Translated from French by Katherine Hastings and Peter McCambridge ©2020. Published by QC Fiction.


Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?