cover image Hunting for the Mississippi

Hunting for the Mississippi

Camille Bouchard, trans. from the French by Peter McCambridge. Baraka (IPG/River North, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (210p) ISBN 978-1-77186-072-7

Bouchard, whose Le ricanement des hyènes won a Governor General’s Award in 2005, gains his first English-language translation with this story based on the fragmentary history of an ill-fated 1684 expedition headed by René-Robert Cavelier to found Louisiana in Spanish territory. The tale is told from the vantage point of Eustache Bréman, the 12-year-old son of a French widow whose only option for survival is begging. To escape this fate, she is persuaded by a friend to become part of the group that will cross the Atlantic to found the French colony. The tale is littered with female suffering that serves as the impetus for male action, particularly the repeated rape of a girl (starting at age 10) as a cause for revenge. (In a closing note, the author explains that he changed “a detail or two that helped the novel along,” the invented sexual assault plotline apparently being one such detail.) Aboriginal people are essentially ignored other than the ways that they threaten or aid the European party, and good, virtuous, loyal citizens are the ones who survive. Ages 14–up. (May)