cover image The Hollow Beast

The Hollow Beast

Christophe Bernard, trans. from the French by Lazer Lederhendler. Biblioasis, $18.95 trade paper (600p) ISBN 978-1-77196-555-2

Quebecois writer Bernard debuts with a feverish burlesque about a one-time hockey player’s decades-long dispute with a referee and his grandson’s attempts to reverse the family curse. During a junior hockey tournament on the remote Gaspé peninsula in 1911, teenage goalie Monti Bouge catches a puck between his teeth and is knocked unconscious into the back of his net. Hapless referee and town mailman Victor Bradley counts the goal, provoking Monti to vow revenge. Monti slides disastrously into adulthood as a failed gold panner in Ontario, and entertains himself in middle age by making Bradley deliver an entire encyclopedia set and other heavy packages. A parallel narrative follows Monti’s alcoholic grandson, François, who’s been evicted from his apartment in Montreal. He blames his squalor on a nebulous “beast” that may have stalked his family for generations. Returning home for the first time since leaving for college, he hopes to find out more about the curse-provoking misdeeds of Monti, who died by suicide when François was a baby. Though the reader often feels at sea in the sprawling phantasmagoria, Bernard’s bawdiness and mania credibly evoke Thomas Pynchon’s flights of invention. Lovers of virtuosic shaggy dog stories ought to take note. (Apr.)