From Hungary-hollywood Express, the first novel in the 1984 trilogy. Translated by Dimitri Nasrallah. Published by Véhicule Press in 2016. Plamondon has written three critically acclaimed novels and a novella. He lives in Bordeaux, France.
I’m about to turn forty and the questions that I asked myself at twenty are still burning, undecided, unresolved. I’ve had acne, I went to university, I fucked around, I got married, I took drugs, I traveled, I played sports, I read newspapers, I said “hello,” I said “yes, thank you,” I was class president, I was employee of the month, I fought for this cause and I fought for that cause. I opened
a bank account, I saved, I bought a car, I drove a little drunk but not a lot, I didn’t burn through red lights, I ironed my shirts on Sunday evenings, I bought gifts for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, Valentine’s Day. I’ve taken out life insurance, I bought a flat screen, a laptop, I’ve recycled empty bottles, paper, cardboard, plastic. I’ve eaten fruits and vegetables and dairy products. I’ve turned off lights when leaving, I made sure faucets were closed tightly, I washed my hands, and I never pissed on the toilet seat. I traded in my vinyl records for cassettes, then my cassettes for CDS and my CDS for mp3s. I’ve got leather shoes for work, Reeboks for sport, cleats for the mountain, and galoshes for the rain.
I watched Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane because it’s the biggest film in cinematic history. I watched Titanic because it’s the film that was watched by the largest number of viewers in cinematic history. I watched The Seven Year Itch because it contains cinematic history’s most iconic scene, in which Marilyn holds down her white dress atop the subway grates. I watched
Pierrot le Fou because the New Wave changed cinematic history. I watched Jaws because my father wanted to take me to the movies. I watched Star Wars because I was ten. I read Brave New World because it was on the curriculum. I read Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians and Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia for the same reason. I’ve played baseball, I’ve played handball, I’ve played volleyball, I’ve played football, I’ve played badminton but I never played hockey. At fourteen, I picked vegetables to learn what it was to work. At fifteen, I worked as a babysitter to pay for the movies, a pair of jeans, a pack of beer, and an Iron Maiden album. At sixteen, I pumped gas so I could spend a week camping in Cape Cod. At seventeen, I worked as a librarian to pay the return bus fare between Quebec City and Thetford Mines. At eighteen, I worked as a host at the Educative Society of Canada to pay for a shared apartment, and I worked as a waiter to eat.
I’ve owned a tricycle, I’ve owned roller skates, ice skates, a skateboard, a 10-speed Gitane, a moped, a Honda Civic, a Renault 5, a Ford Horizon, a Peugeot 305, a Peugeot 306, and a Peugeot 307.
I developed an allergy to cat hair, I smoked a pack a day for ten years and then I stopped. I kept my wisdom teeth, I donated my sperm. I shattered a bus shelter. I built a house.
I’ve been a model, a journalist, a waiter, a farmhand. I’ve worked at a cement plant, in a hardware store, and in a chemistry lab. I’ve been a French instructor and an English instructor. I’ve done theater and I’ve pumped gas at a Petro-canada managed by Ti-cul Perron.
I’ve fished trout from the banks of rivers. I’ve fished bass from canoes on lakes. I’ve fished gudgeon from streams, I’ve fished salmon with a fly. I’ve listened to disco, rock, heavy metal, jazz, fusion, prog, country, grunge, classical, baroque, opera, and world music.
I’ve smoked weed and hash, I’ve snorted coke and mesc, I’ve
swallowed acid and ecstasy. I’ve gotten pissed from beer, I’ve gotten pissed from whisky, I’ve gotten pissed from red wine, I’ve gotten pissed from rum and from vodka. I’ve mixed, I’ve vomited, I’ve woken up with hangovers and done it all again, numerous times.
I’ve read Diderot, I’ve read Voltaire, I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read Shakespeare, I’ve read Melville, I’ve read Rabelais. I’ve read Baudelaire, I’ve read Flaubert, I’ve read Ducharme. I’ve read Pynchon, Williams, Capote, Irving and above all Brautigan. I’ve read Kerouac. I’ve read Miller, I’ve read Rimbaud, I’ve read Camus. And then also Blanchot, Yourcenar, Sartre, Bakhtin, Céline, Cyrano, Hesse, Mcluhan, Sterne, Zola. I’ve also flipped through Plato, Nietzsche, Barthes, Freud, Newton, and Galileo.
I’ve been cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, snowshoeing, rowboating, windsurfing, and scubadiving. I’ve surfed, skydived, and wiped out in motocross. I’ve done tobogganing, rafting, and a little bit of spelunking.
I’ve caught toads, frogs, garter snakes, tadpoles, grasshoppers, snails, butterflies, caterpillars, mice, and voles. I’ve trapped marmots, muskrats, squirrels, and foxes. I’ve hunted partridge and set up rabbit snares.
I’ve ridden a Ski-doo, I’ve ridden a Sea-doo, I’ve watched Scooby-doo. I’ve watched Dallas, The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Knight Rider. On Saturday nights, back when I was young, I had dinner in front of Space: 1999. For four years on December 31st, Michel Fugain & Le Big Bazar struck in my New Year’s Eve. While I played with my Lego on Saturday mornings, Candy Candy, Belle and Sebastian, Captain Future, and Captain Harlock flickered on the screen.
One summer, my dad took me to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. After three days of camping in the rain, we came back. Later, my mom took me to Ogunquit, which went better. The following year, it was Toronto and Niagara Falls. I participated in a student exchange program to Calgary.
When I was five years old, I visited Montreal, Rome, Amsterdam, Seville, Munich, Venice, Bordeaux, Paris, Bruges, and Auschwitz. When I was twenty-three years old I did it all again, going from Paris to Nice, then Monaco, then Brindisi, then Athens, then Corfu, then Rome, Geneva, Luxembourg, Bruges, Amsterdam, and back to Paris before returning to Quebec City.
I studied the sciences and mathematics (integral and differential calculus), and I took courses in politics (totalitarianism according to Hannah Arendt) and economics (Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Schumpeter’s creative destruction). I also studied the history of cinema (from Battleship Potemkin to Frank Capra) and the historical novel (from Racine to Yourcenar).
I’ve traveled charter, I’ve traveled economy class, I’ve traveled business class, and I’ve traveled first class. I’ve crossed Canada by bus, I’ve crossed Europe by train. I’ve crossed the Atlantic in a 747, a 737, a DC-10 and an A-320.
I’ve participated on reading committees and editorial committees, I’ve sat with the board of directors, I’ve done brainstorming sessions, weekly reviews, monthly meetings. I’ve been project leader, coordinator, assistant,
manager, director, and president. I’ve written summaries, technical manuals, I’ve implemented strategies.
I’ve made love in the snow, I’ve made love in a pool, I’ve made love on a plane. I’ve fucked in the kitchen, I’ve fucked in the living room, in the den. I’ve fucked on a washing machine, I’ve fucked in a stairwell, I’ve fucked in a car, I’ve fucked in the middle of a field, under a tree, in the shower, and in a castle tower.
I’ve eaten poutine in Trois-rivières, I’ve dined on goulash in Budapest, I’ve eaten schnitzels in Prague, I’ve eaten tapas in Seville. I’ve eaten a pizza in Naples, duck confit in Bordeaux, steak frites in Paris, grilled chicken in Porto, sausage in Strasbourg, lobster in Saly Portudal, suckling pig in Hong Kong,
fajitas in Hollywood, pad thai in Toronto, and a burger in New York.
I’ve given crayons to kids living in the baobab forests of Senegal. I’ve bought drugs by taxi in a Chicago ghetto. I’ve snorted coke in a Montreal tavern. I’ve eaten at Gaudí’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona. I’ve pissed in the toilets of the Peninsula in Kowloon. I had my bags searched at the Ritzcarlton in Istanbul. I’ve served beers to Renaud around the time he was singing “Miss Maggie.” I’ve traveled next to Luc Plamondon as he slept. I’ve won story contests, photo contests. I’ve won a bronze medal, a silver medal, and a gold medal. I’ve lost many races.
I’ve repaired a washing machine, I’ve repaired a vacuum cleaner, I’ve done plumbing, I’ve put up a wall, I’ve assembled a chicken coop, a doghouse, a table, a couch, and a birdhouse.
I’ve dissected dead bodies, I’ve filmed surgeries. I’ve dined with directors and surgeons, accountants, secretaries and economists, architects and the unemployed, professors and mechanics, the big, the fat, the small, the weak.
I’ve owned a Texas Instrument 99/4A, I’ve owned a Commodore VIC-20, I’ve owned a Macintosh Classic, a Power Mac, a G3, a G4, a G5. I’ve learned how to use Windows, Outlook, Word, Excel, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, Final Cut, Motion, Netscape, Gopher, itunes, Quarkxpress, Pagemaker, Indesign, Toast, and After Effects.
I’ve done layout, brochures, posters, books, video editing, digital shooting, 3D animation, audio mixing, photography. I signed myself up for Facebook, I created a blog, I used Google Docs, I opened a Yahoo account, a Free account, a Hotmail account.
I’ve also been a soldier. I’ve cut off cocks, heads, and arms. I’ve raped young girls and run over women with a Hummer. I’ve blown up embassies, I’ve gone AWOL. I saved lives, bandaged wounds, and fed children.
I’ve seen the Twin Towers on fire. I’ve seen a journalist beheaded like Saint John the Baptist. I’ve seen Salome belly dance. I’ve seen Genghis Khan’s elephants cross the Mongol Empire, I’ve seen Roland carve the Pyrenees with his sword. I’ve seen Mount Vesuvius destroy Pompeii and Erina, who screamed as lava melted her feet, her legs, her trunk, her head, linger in her last look at me. I’ve seen Geronimo charge a cavalry line. I’ve seen skulls scalped by Iroquois. I’ve seen skulls scalped by white men. Under the watchful eye of Moctezuma, I took part in the sacrifice of six thousand virgins. I stabbed Caesar, I took the streetcar with Brando.
I’ve leapt from the top of the Statue of Liberty. I’ve pissed blood under the blade of Guillotin’s invention. I’ve been shot in the neck and seen my blood splatter across the floor. I’ve seen the firing line before being blindfolded. I’ve soldered the bodies of Fords in Detroit. I sold everything in ’29 before turning on the gas. I’ve died in the electric chair, and I’ve worked at Menlo Park.
In Vietnam I burned children alive with napalm. I climbed the stage at Woodstock. I set a foot on the moon. I fired at Kennedy. I bombed London. I entered Havana with Castro. I carried the stones for the Great Wall of China. I led a revolution with Mao. I was a Bolshevik. I blessed the Assembly. I’ve harpooned whales. I’ve sold brushes. I inaugurated the Panama Canal. I’ve marched against nuclear energy, against the death penalty, against low wages, against the church, against violence, against war, against colonialism, against the cult of personality, against the massacre of Indians, against circumcision, and I’ve filmed orgies in the Californian villas of Malibu.
And now, I’m going to swim the 100-meter freestyle in under a minute.
From Burnt Forest by Brian Howell. These photographs were taken in the winter of 2014-15 in the Thompson River region of British Columbia, where thousands of acres of forests were destroyed by wildfires more than a decade earlier. Howell’s photographs have been
shown across Canada and internationally. Two books of his photography have been published by Arsenal Pulp Press. Howell lives in Delta, BC, and at brianhowellphotography.com.
The Mother by Brandon Constans. 60" x 54". Acrylic and medium on canvas, 2015. Constans’ paintings have exhibited at Robert Kananaj Gallery, Only One Gallery and the Toronto International Art Fair. He lives in Oakville, ON.