Since the feminicide of December 6, 1989 at Polytechnique, rabies has fed Chantal Nadeau. Not the one that we sometimes read in social networks, but the one that acts as fuel. The professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois has made it into a hybrid and incisive book, an autofiction mixing poetry, essay, short story, The gaps, at Hamac.
Chantal Nadeau is living with post-traumatic stress disorder which crystallized on the evening of December 6, 1989 at the University of Montreal where she was studying. This mixture of anxiety and anger makes her see “red, white, black”. This sentiment reappeared when a defiant student, sporting the famous Make America Great Again cap, burst into a class she was teaching at the University of Illinois in 2018.
His autofiction The gaps explores it in a non-linear fashion through short and punchy flashbacks, in no chronological order. Memory does not work on call.
“Rabies is the backbone of the book, from the first to the last page,” she said in a telephone interview. It is carrier, the rage, because it was my mode of communication and survival. The source of my trauma is university and I am a professor, so I constantly see him again. ”
This anger can sometimes be expressed in verbal abuse, she says, but it never hit anyone.
“It’s still there. Even in my theoretical writings, there is a strong energy in dissonance with the classical academic model. I wanted to keep that in the book which is partly fictitious. I didn’t want to make a description of reality. These are impressions. Poly’s traces are not only in my holed head, it is in the whole range of emotions that such an extreme event can provoke. ”
The gaps is also a way of expressing one’s feeling of sisterhood in relation to the traumatic experiences lived by women, in general, and queers, in particular. She thanks her editor at Hamac, the writer Anne Peyrouse, who “made the book better”. She described the book as a “long breath”.
“It’s my way of writing,” notes Chantal Nadeau. Always in the cracks. People have a hard time identifying my style, but also the way I think. The form of the essay is closer to my thinking. When i wrote Fur Nation: From the Beaver to Brigitte Bardot, there was delirium at times. The book I’m finishing right now Queer Courage, is much more serious. ”
The gaps speaks of his “real home”, Montreal, using the local language. To stand “upright”, as she writes, refers to the courage required in the face of the battles still to be waged.
It is appalling, what is happening with transgender women, the murder rate is unacceptable. The same goes for native women. In the book, when I talk about politicians’ mouth shows, it’s because I can’t stand hearing them anymore.
“The sense of urgency is very important,” she adds. Being aware of what is going on in society, I cannot write other than in a state of emergency. It’s my way of translating my rage into words. When I feel that, it has to come out quickly and without compromise. ”
On the other hand, she notes that hybridity, whether literary or societal, is synonymous with change.
There is something going on with the new generation. When I started teaching in Chicago, the students were very conservative. There was no fire. The new generation is on fire. I always ask them to tell me what makes them move forward, what drives them to keep going.
She sees progress, in particular, in the demonstrations of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think it’s beautiful, that it happens in the dismal climate that we live in the United States. A while ago I felt bored of teaching, but these are the kinds of things that gave me back the taste. I also have projects with visual artist Jessie Mott, who did the wonderful cover of the book. ”
A politicized, committed woman, Chantal Nadeau breathes better thanks to a certain wind of change blowing through American politics.
“Since the election of Joe Biden, an immense weight has disappeared from the shoulders of the people, it seems. I told all my contacts that I didn’t want to hear anything against Biden and Harris until January 20. Afterwards, we’ll see, but it’s a respite that feels good. ”