cover image Mercury Under My Tongue

Mercury Under My Tongue

Sylvain Trudel, , trans. from the French by Sheila Fischman. . Counterpoint/Soft Skull, $13.95 (159pp) ISBN 978-1-933368-96-2

Québécois novelist Trudel convincingly conjures the bitterly sad imagination of a 17-year-old boy dying of hip-bone sarcoma. Lying in a Canadian hospital near the Missiquoi Bay, Frédéric has “a kind of dark faith” in himself. Bored and often in terrible pain in his “bachelor pad,” he tools around the corridors in his wheelchair with other young patients and has faith in what he knows, which is that he is neither good nor bad, and that his soul will die with him. He fantasizes about his well-meaning but ineffectual psychotherapist, Maryse Bouthillier. With a 15-year-old leukemia patient he meets, Marilou Desjardins, he writes poetry and imagines sharing love, marriage and children. In his heart, Frédéric is furious at his bad luck and angry at such visitors as the Abbé Guillemette, who lectures about belief and sin when Frédéric cannot see any use for hope or penance, perversely signing his poetry after an 18th-century Italian poet, Metastasio. Frédéric refuses to entertain self-pity, and his voice is immediate, winning and utterly believable until the end. (Feb.)