Spring 2022 Fiction Preview: Remnants by Céline Huyghebaert, translated by Aleshia Jensen | Book*hug Press

Spring 2022 Fiction Preview: Remnants by Céline Huyghebaert, translated by Aleshia Jensen

Today, we are sharing the final instalment of our Spring 2022 Preview series, highlighting Remnants, the Governor General’s Literary Award-winning novel by Céline Huyghebaert, soon to be published in translation by Aleshia Jensen.

Remnants is an exploration of our relationships with family and perception, told through a profound investigation of a father’s life and sudden death. With various voices and hybrid forms—including dialogues, questionnaires, photographs, and dream documentation—Huyghebaert builds a fragmented picture of a father-daughter relationship that has been shaped by silences and missed opportunities. What is left of someone who was not important enough to be archived? How do we talk about what no longer exists?

“Utilizing a wide array of strategies both literary and personal, Céline Huyghebaert’s Remnants (here translated beautifully by Aleshia Jensen) delves into deeply human questions—what it means to be both a father and a daughter, the many ways the past is always with us, and how the ache of being continuously haunted by our own complex histories makes us fuller—with an inventiveness of new methods for both confronting and understanding them,” writes Jacob Wren, author of Rich and Poor.

See the excerpt below for a sneak peek at the novel to come! Originally published in French as Le drap blanc (Le Quartanier), Remnants will be released on June 7, 2022, and is available now for pre-order now from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.

The Photo

My father is the kid. He’s looking down at his brother’s hands, which are holding the arrow perpendicular to the bow. Their shadows stretch across the cement yard, up to the stone wall. Half a woman’s shadow leans into the frame—short curly hair, a flowing dress, maybe a bath- robe, arms crossed at her belly: their mother.

The photograph of my father with his brother is the only image we had seen of him as a child. My sister has the photo, and she keeps it in a frame on a shelf in her bedroom. It’s a yellowed square, the corners damaged. I’ve often stopped in front of it without considering this image in particular: I was always struck by the two other photographs in the same frame. In the other two, my father is in his twenties. I easily recognize the sneaky look of his thin silhouette, his twitching muscles.

My father is with friends, but he’s the one who catches your eye, just as he did in real life. I can spend ages dissecting these photos, looking for what gives him his aura. The little blond boy huddled near his brother inspires nothing, doesn’t stir up any emotions. That child, my father, evokes only the yellowed hue of old family albums. On the back, the main characters reveal their identities: two first names, the first letters of which time has worn away, noted in rounded cursive.

Céline Huyghebaert is an artist and a writer. Her work, at the intersection of visual arts, language and literature, has been exhibited in France and Canada. In 2019, she won the Governor General’s Litearry Award for her first novel, Le drap blanc, published by Le Quartanier, and she was awarded the Bronfman Fellowship in Contemporary Art. Born in France in 1978, she has been living in Montréal since 2002.

Aleshia Jensen is a French-to-English literary translator and former bookseller living in Tio’tia:ke/Montréal. Her translations include Explosions by Mathieu Poulin, a finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation; Prague by Maude Veilleux, co-translated with Aimee Wall; as well as numerous graphic novels, including work by Julie Delporte, Catherine Ocelot, Mirion Malle, and Pascal Girard.

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