A Different Point of View
Local Author Pens FLQ Fiction
Quebec was a turbulent place in the 1970s, wrought with the burgeoning Franco-nationalist movement’s political skirmishes and a province-wide cultural upheaval. And while it’s not common to see an anglophone author depicting this time period, Raymond Beauchemin’s first novel, Everything I Own, is taking it on.
“Ever since I graduated I was writing fiction,” said Beauchemin, an alumnus of Concordia’s creative writing program. “So this is actually the fourth novel I’ve written, but the first one to get published.”
His debut tells the story of Michel Laflamme, a Quebec songwriter, and his wife Bijou. Their love story evolves in a politically and culturally important period for Quebec, and Beauchemin arcs the story through the rise of the nationalist movement that was very closely linked to the musical scene of the time.
“[Michel Laflamme] gets involved with the separatist ideology and movement through music,” Beauchemin explained. “It was the way many people did back then […] it wasn’t solely a political thing, it was also cultural.”
Beauchemin ensured that music was an important feature of the book. Every chapter corresponds to a part of a song, with verses, a chorus and a bridge.“I had the characters, the story; some bits were 20 years old, others just in my head. I was struggling with the novel at first in terms of how to bring things together until I realized that I could structure it as a modified form of a thirty-two-bar blues. After that, the novel basically wrote itself,” he said.
The novel mixes politics, music and a love story, while, as with seemingly every debut novel, sharing some details with the author’s own life. Like Beauchemin, his protagonist was born in the United States to Quebequois parents. But unlike the author, Michel Laflamme comes back to Quebec when he is still a baby. In real life, the Beauchemin family decided to stay in America. The story is sort of a “what if” novel.
By setting his plot in a precise historical context, Beauchemin, a former foreign editor for The Gazette, was able to use some of his journalistic skills.
“I wasn’t necessarily trying to document something in a journalistic way, but there is an important attention to detail, and this is probably the journalist in me,” he said. “Like knowing exactly who was performing—and what they sang—at the St. Jean Baptiste show of 1976 on Mont Royal.”
History, certainly, but shown from a different point of view: that of an English writer, a rare occurrence in Quebec seperatist literature.
“It is very much a separatist point-of-view, but told in English,” he said. “We don’t see that very often. English writers in Montreal don’t tend to write about the ‘others.’”
Reading/signing / Feb. 11 / Paragraphe Bookstore (2220 McGill College Ave.) / 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Signing / Feb. 12 / Chapters Pointe-Claire (6321 Trans-Canada Hwy.) / 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.