The Death of Andre Breton
Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
Quebec-born Jean Yves Collette is a prolific writer who has published more than ten works of fiction since 1980. His most recent novel, la Mort d’Andre Breton, won the Prix Emile-Nelligan in 1981.
The Death of Andre Breton is most disturbing to read. It presents a confusing series of events and feelings that apparently lead up to the suicide of the protagonist, a writer named Andre Breton. The imagery throughout is vulgar and coarse; sleaziness is passed off as eroticism.
Collette’s style ranges from the confessional to stream of consciousness. Punctuation serves the author, not the reader. The end result is an unsatisfactory mixture of senseless words. The reader feels no sympathy for either the characters or their plight, which appears to be apathy and nihilism. There exists only a sense of discomfort and annoyance at having spent time on a matter of little relevance or worth.
Some blame might be placed on Ray Chamberlain’s translation, which appears to be an extremely literal one, and on the fact that the English and French languages have very separate nuances. Whatever exercise was meant to be presented in the original fails to register in the existing translation. A case in point would be the so-called eroticism, which in translation is merely vulgar.
Andre Breton’s tale, which deals with his “revelations” and personal angst from 1968 to 1980, may well be summed up by the last word in the novel — a “Hoax,” and not an amusing one at that.