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From the archives

Untying the Knot

A new book untangles historical confusion and contemporary anxieties about marriage

Thou Art Anxious

Decisions, decisions

Keep in Touch

Why digital connections can’t sustain health, happiness or politics

Amanda Perry

Amanda Perry teaches literature at Concordia University and Champlain College Saint-Lambert.

Articles by
Amanda Perry

Abandoning the Map

Two novelists subvert convention January | February 2024
Inciting incident, rising action, climax, denouement: these are terms that might make anyone with an advanced degree in literature roll their eyes. Freytag’s Pyramid, a basic diagram for plot structure that resembles a lopsided triangle, has been drawn on so many middle school chalkboards that it is easy to sneer at. Surely we have moved beyond such simplistic ways of telling…

A Province Transformed

Quebec’s political and linguistic fault lines December 2023
Earlier this year, Quebec’s National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion declaring the province no more racist than anywhere else. It was a strange move, as though politicians were magicians whose words sufficed to make theirs “among the most open and welcoming nations in the world.” Of course, this attempt to shield the population from slander was really a defence of state…

The Bélangers

An oral history of a Montreal gang November 2023
In the wake of countless films and TV series, the very word “gang” evokes an entertainment subgenre with standard features: theft, drugs, prostitution, internal rivalries, crooked cops, murder, and tons of male ego. Out to Defend Ourselves, which charts the evolution of Montreal’s first Haitian street gang, the Bélangers, contains all of these…

Winds of Change

Three takes on gentrification September 2023
In June, the government of Quebec introduced Bill 31, a measure designed to address the province’s housing crisis, marked by low vacancy rates and spiralling rents. To the outrage of affordability advocates, the proposed law would eliminate lease transfers, which allow tenants to pass on their apartments to new occupants for the same rent. (Currently, landlords need a serious reason to refuse a…

Alberta and Me

From a land of oil, true enough July | August 2023
The day after 2,400 homes in Fort McMurray burned down in a forest fire, I was at a wine and cheese reception in New York City. A fellow graduate student, from Toronto, brought up the news. “It seems like karma for climate change, doesn’t it?” I wanted to slap her. I’ve never been to Fort…

A Series Interrupted

Marie-Claire Blais’s melancholy finale April 2023
At first glance, Augustino ou l’illumination (Augustino or illumination) is a melancholy finale to Marie-Claire Blais’s oeuvre. The slim volume contains seventy pages left behind by the Quebec writer, who died suddenly on November 30, 2021. Yet, even in fragmentary form, the text testifies to the fact that Blais’s career was never going to wrap up…

To Sink or Swim

A poetic novel by Dominique Scali March 2023
Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick may contain some of the most stunning prose poetry in the English language, but it also owes its status as a masterpiece to the fact that it is long and weird. Melville begins his opus with pages of epigraphs. He then launches into an unstable mixture of an adventure story, a psychological…

The Meeting Point

Haitian writers amid Québécois letters January | February 2023
Last August, the residents of Montreal’s well-heeled Outremont neighbourhood were treated to a curious scene. Librairie du Square was hosting a reception to welcome the poet and novelist Emmelie Prophète, who had been appointed Haiti’s minister of culture a few months before. On the sidewalk outside the bookstore, a sole protester rolled out a banner that declared Prophète a kolabo — or…

Here It Once Stood

A pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot September 2022
When strangers in Montreal ask me what Edmonton is like, I often respond, “There’s lots of parking.” It’s the kind of potshot one can take only against one’s own hometown. But my answer is also rooted in architectural despair: Alberta’s capital is a place of urban sprawl and strip malls, shaped by decades-long zoning rules that required new developments to provide a minimum number of parking…

A Dual Perspective

Scenes of a Congolese world July | August 2022
In 1975, the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe shook the world of English literature with a declaration: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is irredeemably racist. Granted, the 1899 work condemns colonial violence in the Congo Free State, then under the control of King Leopold II of Belgium. But according to Achebe, Conrad portrays Africans as a frenzied mob and the continent “as a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity.” To demonstrate the corrupting effects of colonialism on…

Upstaged

Prop and circumstance May 2022
The Omicron variant caused plenty of drama for Quebec’s theatre industry. On December 20, 2021, the premier, François Legault, shuttered all performance venues with four hours’ notice. They were permitted to reopen in February at half capacity, with the ironic result that the most popular shows were cancelled, as there was no fair way to distribute the…

Among the Thorns

What grows in the Sunshine Province January | February 2022
Albertans are keenly aware of our reputation. We are undertaxed pipeline fanatics who drive pickups, vote Conservative, and care less about climate change than about stopping Ottawa from stealing our oil money. This half-truth persists, in part, because even we sometimes see our largest industry as a stand‑in for Alberta itself. But the land existed before the fossil fuel…

Quandary Quebec

Divisive issues in La Belle Province November 2021
The 2021 English-language leaders’ debate set off a familiar news cycle about race in Quebec: Someone from another part of Canada characterizes a development in the province as racist. The francophone media responds with allegations of “Quebec bashing.” The premier issues a statement. Commentators from elsewhere shake their heads and feel morally superior, while those here close ranks in…

Too Soon?

Share words, not germs September 2021
In spring 2020, as the world shut down, we all learned that William Shakespeare penned King Lear while hiding out from the plague. Some contemporary artists responded to the 500-year-old news with anger: oh, the pressure to be productive! Angry or not, people certainly wrote during the first wave of COVID‑19 — a …

Landings

How I wonder what you are July | August 2021
The media sounds the alarm as ­asylum seekers descend upon Quebec in unprecedented numbers. The federal government promises to step in. But how to balance Canada’s ethical and legal obligations toward refugees with control over the border? No, it’s not 2016, when a wave of people began arriving via Roxham Road. It’s 1986, the year Caroline Dawson’s family decides to flee…

Touch of Madness

A new translation of a classic May 2021
Let’s get this out of the way: Réjean Ducharme’s Swallowed is an absolute classic in Quebec. The 1966 novel is widely taught in high schools and universities, and the fact that an English translation wasn’t available in Canada until last year is scandalous. But too much focus on Ducharme’s canonical status is misleading. It makes reading him sound like an…

French Fold

All the snowbird news that’s fit to print April 2021
The snowbirds are revolting. On the one wing, the migrating seniors are challenging Ottawa’s mandatory hotel quarantine in the courts, balking at paying thousands for a few days in “hotel hell.” On the other, they have become targets of popular disgust. Who do they think they are, the righteous want to know, basking in the sun while the rest of us have been told to stay…

Crossed Histories

A collection from Kaie Kellough September 2020
Say the word “maroon” and most people will think if not of the colour, then of being stranded on a desert island. They might imagine a Robinson Crusoe scenario, where an interchangeable tropical location provides a backdrop to a (usually male, usually white) struggle for survival. But there is an older, Caribbean genealogy to the word that takes us back to the history of…

North and South

Cuba’s Orwellian mystery July | August 2020
Researching Cuba as a Canadian living in New York was a disorienting experience. When I would describe my work, most people would react with surprise, curiosity, and even envy: Had I actually been there? At times, it seemed like views were as polarized as in any Israel-­Palestine debate. Back in Alberta, Canada’s supposed conservative…