- Author: Larry Tremblay
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Talonbooks is a small, independent, Canadian book publishing company. We have been publishing works of the highest literary merit since the 1960s. With more than 500 books in print, we offer drama, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by local playwrights, poets, and authors from the mainstream and margins of Canada’s three founding nations, as well as both visible and invisible minorities within Canada’s cultural mosaic. Learn more about us or about the author,Larry Tremblay, or the translator, Sheila Fischman.
Translated by Sheila Fischman
Impurity: A Novel
Chapter 10: A Pure Heart
About the Author
More by the Author
Impurity: A Novel
Could it think, the heart would stop beating.
—Fernando Pessoa, “A Factless Autobiography,” The Book of Disquiet, translated by Richard Zenith (1991)
She would like to believe in God, in the immortality of souls. She cannot. She lights a candle in the columbarium chapel. She doesn’t cry. Her tears have dried up. All that’s left to her are memories. The beautiful, radiant ones. And those that tear her apart. She doesn’t know how she was able to close her eyes for so long to what truly mattered. There were hints, however, details that could have awakened suspicions before it was too late. She also is to blame, that she knows.
Nervous, she looks at her watch. Six o’clock. There, now he’s back from the college. He’s parking in front of the house, climbing the front steps, taking his key, opening the door, immediately sensing that there’s something different. It’s the silence. The silence that is born from absence, from emptiness. He takes a few steps, enters the living room. There is no more furniture, no carpet, no paintings on the walls except for one, which is now immense. His heart is beating faster. She’s certain that at that moment his heart is beating faster. On the floor, he sees a book. He bends down to pick it up. On the cover there is a reproduction of the same painting, a maelstrom of blotches that suddenly makes him afraid. He closes his eyes for a moment.
Then he opens Impurity.
There are no remains yet. Journalists note with caution that the search is a rescue operation. But no one is fooled. You don’t rescue people whose plane has plunged into the ocean at two thousand metres per minute. You search for the carcass that acts as their underwater tomb.
The disappearance of the Piper Saratoga – a poetic name for an airplane – is reported on July 16, 1999. The pilot was John F. Kennedy, Junior. His wife and his sister-in-law were with him as well.
Unable to tear himself away from the television, Antoine follows all the coverage, zaps, looks at the same item ten times over. As he is on vacation, he can spend all his time living the event live. The CNN reporters encourage him to do it by showing non-stop the same images, the same archival photos that mark the milestones in John-John’s exemplary life. The prince of America is one of those who are crowned with a tragic destiny, as if beauty, wealth, glory, when fused in one individual, emerged directly from the thigh of fate.
After a few days, Antoine has spent all his capital of sympathy for the victims and their families and friends. Zapping from one network to another, he compares the different ways of covering the event. This outrageous media coverage of death exposes the pathological state in which society maintains its members. The vulture in this story is also him, especially him, sitting comfortably, his hand lengthened by a TV remote. Sweating bullets, fused with the leather of his armchair, he is revelling in the bad luck of others. He is in this state of accepted intellectual sloth when he learns that after a five-day search, the Piper Saratoga has been found, and learns in the same news bulletin of the suicide of Félix Maltais.
His death also makes the news.
Félix, whom he hasn’t thought about for a good thirty years. He has immolated himself on a tiny island, scarcely a few trees. A rock, in fact. He set fire to the island. Waited for the flames to devour the spruce trees and, along with them, his body. The fire was extinguished on its own, leaving a ring of grey ash in the middle of a blue lake.
They had once been very close. Life came between them. Antoine forgot him. Nothing simpler than to delete from our lives people who have mattered deeply to us. The news drags him out of his televisual lethargy. He pulls on his sandals, goes out to buy the papers. Walking rapidly, he has the impression that he is sowing the thoughts taking shape within him.
Ever since the JFK Junior episode, along with the local and national papers he has been buying some American ones. He thinks it’s ridiculous to join in