Winner of the 2020 Governor General’s Award in Translation
A World Literature Today Notable Translation of 2020
Sliding doors open and close automatically, exit to the left, entrance to the right. Beyond it, cars go by, and pedestrians and cyclists. A large park behaves as if nothing has happened. The mirage of a world intact.
In an instant, a life can change forever. After he falls from a scaffold on the construction site where he works, David, deep in a coma, is visited regularly by his wife, Caroline, and their six-year-old son Bertrand. Yet despite their devotion, there seems to be no crossing the divide between consciousness and the mysterious world David now inhabits. Devastated by loss and the reality that their own lives must go on, the mourners face difficult questions. How do we communicate when language fails? When, and how, do we move forward? What constitutes a life, and can there be such a thing as a good death? All the while, David’s inner world unfolds, shifting from sensory perceptions, to memories of loved ones, to nightmare landscapes from his family’s past in WWII Poland.
Elegantly translated by Lazer Lederhendler, If You Hear Me is a gripping account of a woman’s struggle to let go of the husband whose mind is lost to her while his body lives on in the bittersweet present, and a deft rendering of the complexity of grief, asking what it means to be alive and how we learn to accept the unacceptable—while at the same time bearing witness to the enduring power of hope, and the ways we find peace in unexpected places.
Praise for If You Hear Me
“Lazer Lederhendler has presented challenging subject matter with sensitivity, nuance and elegance. His language is powerful yet limpid, understated yet heartbreaking, and lightly humorous. He delicately navigates complex layers of trauma in the immigrant and the patient, lingering between life and death, dream and reality. The finely drawn characters in this novel wait, as we all do, for release.”—Jury Statement from the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation
“A tender and engaging examination of one family’s deepest connections to each other and how our own conscious being can affect and be affected by those around us. It’s a novel of impressive emotional resonance.”—Winnipeg Free Press
“Pascale Quiviger’s Si tu m’entends was made accessible to English readers in 2020 as If You Hear Me, a heartening sign of the continuing trend for cutting-edge French-language Quebec fiction crossing over … An engrossing combination of experimental and conventional techniques … Exploring the aftermath of a man’s workplace accident and subsequent lapse into a coma, the novel provides a challenge that anyone who appreciates unflinching fiction—say, Emma Donoghue’s Room—will relish.”—Montreal Gazette
“Ingenious narrative techniques, depth of character, finesse of the pen: Pascale Quiviger plunges into her subject with remarkable skill.”—Danielle Laurin, Le Devoir
“A difficult subject, realistically treated … moving, but not tearful … intelligent and well-written.”—Le Figaro
Praise for Pascale Quiviger
“When [Quiviger] is at her most intense each paragraph is like a series of surprising fireworks, one gorgeous image exploding into, or out of, another until the effect is quite overwhelming … If you can afford the luxury of letting a masterful storyteller have her way with you for a little while, this is a truly satisfying read.”—Michelle Lalonde, The Gazette
“Quiviger’s prose flits across lofty queries and explores them with a lucid and gripping poetic style.”—Ibi Kaslik, Globe and Mail
“Quiviger’s prose will seduce the romantic with its many charms, while satisfying the realist with its challenging portrayal of a modern relationship.”—Christopher Johnson, Quill and Quire