Ha! Ha!


94 pages
ISBN 0-920428-35-5





Translated by David Homel
Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is Assistant Director of Libraries at the University of


Ducharme, from the beginning, has resolutely cut his own swathe in the field of Quebecois literature. Strangely, from this lone vantage, he has had immense critical and popular success, yet one seeks in vain to find others imitating him or following his lead.

Comparison of dates between the writings of Quebecois Ducharme, on the one hand, and the American William Burroughs and David Rabe, on the other, would lead to an improbable presumption of influence. Nevertheless, if you were to seek an Anglophone comparison for the writings of Ducharme, these two bring the most apt parallels.

And what characterizes this writing? Don’t look for logical plots or stable — or even consistent — characters. Look rather for verbal virtuosity and an almost overwhelmingly rich linguistic inventiveness which careens from the most erudite classical allusions to lowly — and often scatological — puns.

The English translation of Ha! Ha! is astonishing in that it reproduces even the most byzantine turns of phrase, the punning and frankly bizarre syllabic and phonemic metamorphoses. Yet the English still has the cachet of a translated text: “I’m not zingy, I don’t want to sting you ... I’m hot, I want to warm you up! Your warmth gives me the chills.” Such repetitive phrasing is more stylistically acceptable to the French — nurtured by the style of dissertation and the pith of classic authors such as Laclos. To be successful in English, such stylistics seem to demand the simplicity of an Edward Lear.

Ha! Ha! is a cornucopia of verbal delights and psychological twists, but it requires extreme attention on the part of the reader or the audience.


Ducharme, Rejean, “Ha! Ha!,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34724.