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Mister Blue [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Jacques Poulin , Sheila Fischman

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Book Description

Dec 9 2011

"This is a great and very beautiful novel."—Le Devoir

"One of my favorite writers in the world is Jacques Poulin." —Rawi Hage

"Poulin shares a mix of detached humor, fantasy, and compassion with Vonnegut and Salinger."—The StarPhoenix

Spring had arrived.

The day was so mild that I came down from the attic earlier than usual. I went out on the beach with Mr. Blue and walked to the end of the bay. I was taking a little rest, sitting on a rock that faced the river, when suddenly I noticed some footprints in the sand.

Out of curiosity, I placed my own foot in one of the prints. I was surprised to observe that they were exactly the same size. And yet these were not my prints . . .

Arguably Jacques Poulin's masterpiece, this tender and perceptive tale explores the textures of solitude, compassion, language, fear, and the imagination. Meet Jim: a writer suffering from vivid dreams and bouts of writer's block. Meet Mister Blue, a dignified and prophetic cat and Jim's sole companion that spring on the Ile d'Orléans. That is, until the day they discover a copy of The Arabian Nights in a cave along the beach. Tinged with heartbreak as well as joy, Mister Blue is a novel of subtle shadows and emotions, of wide-open blue sky—a ballet of the possible.

Born in the Beauce region of Québec, Jacques Poulin is the author of fourteen novels. Among his many honors are the Governor General's Award, the 1990 and 2000 Molson Prize for the Arts, the Gilles-Corbeil Prize, and the France-Québec Prize. He lives in Québec City, Québec.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago Books (Dec 9 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935744313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935744313
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 14 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #610,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for Jacques Poulin:
"[Poulin] shares a mix of detached humour, fantasy, and compassion with Vonnegut and Salinger." —Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
"One of the finest and most underrated novelists in Québec." —The Globe & Mail

Praise for Translation is a Love Affair:
"[A] miniature masterpiece of tenderness and humour." —Alberto Manguel
"We fall under the spell of this heartwarming, human novel, penned by Jacques Poulin at the summit of his art." —Mieux Vivre
"These sentences that have been stripped, pumiced and polished until only the beauty of the grain remains, the fine drawing of time and patience."—Entre les lignes

Praise for Spring Tides:
"The most affecting aspect of Spring Tides, I think, is the unexpected sense of loss that sneaks up on you at the end of the novel, like a sudden deep pain, as if Poulin has been distracting you by making shadows with one hand while the other did its subtle, cutting work." —Nick Ancosta, The New York Sun

About the Author

Jacques Poulin (1937-) is the author of twelve novels. Among his many honors are the 1978 Governor General’s Award, the 1990 and 2000 Molson Prize for the Arts, and the Gilles-Corbeil Prize in 2008. He lives in Québec City.

Sheila Fischman has published more than 125 translations of contemporary French-Canadian novels. In 2002, Fischman was named to the Order of Canada in recognition of the quality of her translations and her unparalleled contribution to Canadian culture. She won the Molson Prize for the Arts in 2008.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and deeply moving novel about love and memory Jan. 25 2012
By Darryl R. Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Jim, the narrator of this outstanding novel, is a writer and former professor, who lives in his isolated childhood home alongside the St. Lawrence River, close to Quebec City. He lives alone, save for his old feline companion Mister Blue, as he attempts to write a "the most beautiful love story in the world." However, he has never been truly in love, and he struggles to provide a face and a voice to the woman in his novel.

One day Jim walks on the bank of the river, and he is surprised to see footsteps in the sand, leading to a nearby cave. He enters, and finds evidence that someone is living there. A copy of "The Arabian Nights" is alongside remnants of a campfire, which has been inscribed with the name "Marie K." The novelist changes her name in his mind to "Marika", and she serves as the inspiration for the woman in his novel.

He later meets a matronly woman, who knows Marika and gives him an enticing description of her. As he is befriended by the matron and a young woman, referred to as La Petite, Jim's heart is filled with Marika's presence and his growing love for her, while he awaits a reply to his letters of invitation. His friendship with La Petite deepens, as the two damaged souls find kinship and draw each other out of their emotional shells:

In spite of the difference in age and the other differences, which were many, La Petite and I had several things in common. And the most important of these common points, at least the one that brought me closest to her, was perhaps this: most of the time we were, both of us, walled up inside ourselves and busy trying to stick back together the fragments of our past.

Jim continues to search for the elusive Marika, as his heart progressively fills with love, longing and despair.

"Mister Blue" is a richly layered, haunting and deeply moving novel of love and memory, in which reality and fantasy blur and merge. It is both beautifully and simply written, and I adored and identified closely with Jim and La Petite, who will reside in my heart for many days. I can't recommend this novel highly enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautifully told story about a man searching for himself Dec 27 2011
By M. R. Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
In Jacques Poulin's "Mister Blue," the novel's protagonist, lives in a ramshackle house on the Île d'Orléans with his cat Mr. Blue. Jim's world is defined by the bay, the St. Lawrence River, the beach and the novel he's writing and not writing in the attic room where he works. As a novelist, he refuses to intrude into the lives of his characters; he watches and waits for them to fall in love on their own while he watches and waits for his chance to meet a mysterious young woman who has suddenly taken up residence in a small cave near his house.

Jim and Mr. Blue have seen her anchored sailboat, her footprints in the sand and a few possessions in the cave including a copy The Arabian Nights inscribed with her name, Marika. Yet, he refuses to overtly intrude into her life, certain that he will ultimately meet her by slightly nudged chance. When he cautiously visits the cave, the sees her bookmark's progress through Scheherazade's fanciful stories for the Persian king, but Marika is never home. Jim's life suddenly shifts from that of an aging, divorced man dwelling in solitude with a cat to to an awakening writer in a shifting world of daydreams and obsession that mirror the fits and starts of a manuscript in the attic.

Before his obsession begins, he wonders if he's picked the wrong subject for his novel. A former Hemingway scholar, Jim sees that he has broken Papa's first rule: write what you know best.

"I had to acknowledge that I'd broken this rule. I was trying to write a love story without being in love myself. I'd probably chosen this subject because, as I felt myself growing older, I was afraid it was too late to fall in love one last time."

Poulin's compassionate story about a man searching for himself flows from beginning to end as smoothly and effortlessly as the river outside Jim's attic window. The 150-page novel appears deceptively modest because the prose is just as unadorned as the protagonist's gentle life of promising days and lonely blue days.

On days of hope, Jim's novel moves forward and he almost finds Marika. Though he is forever just missing her, the marching bookmark in "The Arabian Nights," the movements of her sailboat and other hints of her presence nourish him. On blue days, he sees no sign of her and loses himself in memories of the past and mourns the fact that his haunting, off-stage muse eludes him like words in his book.

"Words are independent, like cats, and they don't do what you want them to do. You can love them, stroke them, say sweet things to them all you want - they still break off and go their own way."

Poulin's novel is a powerful masterpiece of understatement. What is real and what is dream? Neither Jim nor the reader can be sure in a story where seemingly disparate elements--an idealized woman, tennis games with a brother, the friendship of young girl who suffered an abusive past, and Mr. Blue--rise and fall like the tides in the bay without the heavy handed intervention of novelists and their characters.

This novel rubs up against a reader's emotions with a soft, but persistent purr.

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