Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who dunnit? October 1970

During the recent commemoration of fortieth anniversary of the October Crisis (1970-2010) and the death of Liberal cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, I got to wondering what really happened, way back then...

So when I learned there was a new novel, by Quebec writer Louis Hamelin, that explored the same questions I have been asking, I ran out and bought it. I haven't finished it yet, but it has already triggered a whirlwind of questions. Some of them I have been asking for a long time, and some are altogether new -- and pretty alarming, I think, to anyone who really cares about this country, the one called Canada, the one we live in and think of as 'home.'

I can see scandals looming like thunderclouds,nebulously at the moment.

The question that haunts me the most is: What if what we think happened in October 1970, when the Front de Liberation du Quebec kidnapped two men, one of whom ended up dead - is actually a lie?

How many people would be forced to look back at their most deeply held beliefs, loyalties, and actions of the past 40 years, in the light of new information that suggests we have all been duped?

How's that for an indigestible irony worthy of a Russian novel?

La Constellation du lynxLa Constellation du lynx by Louis Hamelin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without a doubt, this novel has saved my life. I was 19 during the October Crisis, a passive spectator in a national drama that never quite made sense, not at the time, and not in retrospect. Louis Hamelin has changed the past by going back and, like a good journalist, resurrecting the ghosts, especially of Pierre Laporte (alias Paul Lavoie) who haunts these pages. What will keep most of the anglophones away is the thick Quebecois dialect, the multi-layered plot, the sheer length. It took me three weeks, but I made it. I never lost interest, could barely bring myself to put it down, and when I reached the end, I felt like a satisfied tourist returning from an extended crawl through the Great Pyramid.

I plan to write more about this elsewhere. (Just watch me.) It is the book of the year. It is a massive achievements not just of research and reflection, but redemption. How long will it take for the truth to penetrate the public consciousness, which has been poisoned by decades of disinformation? Is it too late for Canada to face its own colonial darkness? Can this epic even be translated into English, without bringing down another War Measures act? I have my doubts about that, too...

In the meantime, this novel should be given as a Christmas present to every Quebecer. It's as if the dead child at the end of Claude Jutra's film Mon Oncle Antoine had suddenly resurrected from his coffin and walked back into our lives. Now we can all grow up.

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