Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Memoriam: Gil Courtemanche

Quebec novelist and journalist Gil Courtemanche died last week at the age of 68.

Writing in French, Courtemanche, from Montreal, was a well known reporter for the newspaper Le Devoir. Beginning in 2000, Courtemanche established a name for himself as a novelist: his first novel, Un Dimanche à la Piscine à Kigali was a best seller in Quebec and an award winner. Published in English as A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali in 2003, the book was included in Knopf Canada's New Face of Fiction program and was nominated for both the 2003 Governor General's Literary Award for French to English Translation and the 2003 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali was reflective of Courtemanche's work as a journalist, where he wrote mainly on international politics. The publisher described it as "a love story that takes place in the days leading up to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda" but critics raved and noted "Courtemanche has written a novel that contains the kind of social criticism that still, almost 10 years after the terrible events, is sharp and pertinent." (Quill and Quire).

Although not all of Courtemanche's books have been translated, the library holds one other of his books in English, his 2006 novel that deals with aging, illness and the question of euthanasia: A Good Death (original French Une Belle Morte). Courtemanche's last autobiographical novel was published in 2010: Je ne veux pas mourir seul, is about a man facing death from cancer. That book has not yet been translated.

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