Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
Denys Chabot’s Moon Country, which won the 1982 Governor General’s Award for fiction in French, is anything but a casual read.
On the surface, the work hurtles along like an outrageous comic strip. It is filled with dozens of characters who seem to have very little in common. They scurry across the pages at lightning speed, hardly pausing for breath.
Amid a constant sense of confusion and activity of which he is seldom the initiator, the narrator, who is never properly identified, takes on “Dantesque” qualities and proportion. He leads his Beatrice, a somewhat debauched young woman named Catherine, on a surrealistic adventure in search of “paradise,” a place cabled Champdoré which, appropriately enough, cannot be found on a map.
Chabot makes brilliant use of vicious and often violent satire to reduce reality to the absurd. He creates his own world of space and time. His volatile imagery satirizes the quackeries of life as exemplified by academia, philanthropy, small business, the arts, trade, the criminal element, industry, and even war. His literary scalpel performs a merciless autopsy on the human condition and mankind’s relentless desire to seek the unknown.
David Lobdell’s translation from the French must have been a difficult task, but he has carried it out with great success, omitting none of the general chaos and madness of the original. Moon Country is not a book for the lazy or squeamish reader. It requires concentration, patience, and interpretation to be appreciated for the serious thesis it so admirably presents. It is a provoking and challenging book at mankind’s existential self and his ongoing battle with inner and outer forces that remain outside his control.