Friday, 31 December 2021

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman ~ Denis Theriault


 One has to wonder just how much of this short, little book is lost in translation?  Set in Montreal, Canada, the story was created in French, but the version that I read was translated into English by Liedewy Hawke.  I mention this because, unlike most books translated into English, this one must have been particularly challenging I imagine as the text contains numerous three line poems written in the Japanese Haiku style.  I often wonder how much of a poem's meaning is conveyed through its syntax and word choice. How can a poem be translated when  the poet has spent so long threading each syllable, each word together for a specific effect?  From Shakeaspeare to Seamus Heaney - the intended meanings are surely lost in translation, changed, mutated at the very least. 

However, the world of Bilodo the postman is as familiar as any postman I have ever met, though his obsessions and blatant - illegal - disregard for the rules of the postal service are what sets him apart and keep us reading to the end. I cannot say much about the plot - I would hate to spoil it for curious readers - but it leaps and bounds, ofen into the realm of disbelief and you have to make a bit of an effort to follow it wherever it leads. 

Above all else - this is a book about fantasy and what ifs - where Thériault has let his imagination run wild. He creates a world where characters are not limited by financial concerns - who needs a job! - and enjoy endless resources - why have one apartment when I can have two!  Still, as readers, we are only too guilty of imaginiting our way into a good story, and this is what Thériault does here. He follows where Bilodo leads and ends up someplace unexpected. The ending of the book was quite clever and had me reaching for the sequel immediately. This has to be a good sign, doesn't it?

Truth be told, it was the cover that drew me to this book - a beautiful soft back, textured cover, that had the feel of rough handmade paper suitable for watercolouring. Nomoco is the Japanese artist and illustrator responsible for art that wraps around this text and I am such a fan.  And so we return to where we began - the international appeal of this book. A team of creators from many diverse backgrounds have produced this text that will at times make you blush, but more often will challenge you to believe that the impossible is possible in a busy street in Montreal, in the rain.