Vanishing Villages


233 pages
ISBN 0-920717-73-X
DDC C843'.52





Translated by David Homel

Marguerite Andersen is a professor of French studies at the University
of Guelph.


This book fell apart at the seams when I reached page 19. Though the
binding disappoints, Marchand’s short stories do not. Wild yet
melancholic, they show us how a rural society develops into an urban one
and what may have happened at the crossroads.

The collection, originally titled Courriers des Villages, was first
published in 1942 and won the prestigious Prix David. That is 50 years
ago. We must be thankful that Guernica Editions is reissuing such
titles. The reader might want to keep in mind the possibility of reading
“Fires of Joy” aloud at the Christmas table, as it celebrates a
wonderful tradition or “trusty mortar” of a joyous and generous
society. Marchand describes peasants whose “minds were possessed of a
kind of light and mischief” and who “were all of a piece, compact,
unmovable, gifted with a powerful oneness.” He looks at them with
irony, with a perspective full of light and mischief. Yet the events he
describes contain a strong element of “darkness of nightmare and
prophecy.” Fifty years later, a glance at the morning paper tells us
that some of this darkness has become fact.

Marchand and translator David Homel have had a meeting of minds. Homel,
about half Marchand’s age, has shown in his novel Rat Palms that he
too can be lyrical and sardonic. As Marie-Claire Blais says, his
“writing is clear-sighted; it sticks to the essentials. His novels are
acts of witnessing, and his characters carry the conscience of our
times.” Two very strong voices have met in Vanishing Villages. Who
cares if the


Marchand, Clément., “Vanishing Villages,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,