Kessipan

Written by Naomi Fontaine
Kessipan, by Naomi Fontaine, translated by David Homel, Arsenal Purlp Press, Oct. 8th, 2013

A fictionalized, meditative chronicle of life among the Innu in rural northeastern Quebec.

Kuessipan ("to you" in the Innu language) is an extraordinary, meditative novel about life among the Native Innu people in the wilds of northeastern Quebec. Naomi Fontaine, herself an Innu, wrote this novel (in French) at the age of twenty-three; with grace and perfect pitch, she depicts a community of nomadic hunters and fishers, and of hard-working mothers and their children, enduring a harsh, sometimes cruel reality with quiet dignity. Pervading the book is a palpable sense of place and time played out as a series of moments: elders who watch their kin grow up before their eyes; couples engaged in domestic crises, and young people undone by alcohol; caribou-skin drums that bring residents to their feet; and lives spent along a bay that reflects the beauty of the earth and the universal truth that life is a fleeting puzzle whose pieces must be put together before it can be fully lived.

With poetic restraint and a documentary-like eye, Kuessipan is a remarkable and intimate portrait of a world that reads like no other.

Kuessipan is currently being developed into a French-language motion picture by director Myriam Verreault for Max Films Inc.

More info.


About the author:
Naomi Fontaine is a member of the Innu First Nation in the province of Quebec, from Uashat, a community with a population less than 5,000. She was an education student when she wrote Kuessipan, her first novel, which she based on her own experience. She also writes on her blog Innushkuess (in French).

About the translator:
David Homel was born and raised in Chicago in 1952. He has been a journalist, editor, literary translator, and teacher, and has won numerous awards for translation, including the Governor General’s Award for Literature, Canada’s highest literary honor. His translations include The World is Moving around Me by Dany Laferriere, and The Last Genet by Hadrien Laroche.


Reviews:

This heart-and-soul chronicle by a young writer describes that miraculous moment when a woman crosses the line and leaves her isolation behind. On one side is life as it has been; on the other side, a world of words she can use to tell that story ... [Naomi Fontaine] writes in the same tradition as Native writers such as Tomson Highway, Thomas King, and even Louise Erdrich.
―Le Devoir

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