Burnt For­est,

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.

Geist - - Geist - ÉRIC PLA­M­ON­DON

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.

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