Mister Blue

Mister Blue


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935744313
Publisher: Steerforth Press
Publication date: 12/09/2011
Pages: 150
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Born in Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Jacques Poulin is the author of fourteen novels. Among his many honors are the Governor General's Award, the Molson Prize in the Arts, the Gilles-Corbeil Prize, and the France-Québec Prize. He lives in Québec City.

Sheila Fischman has published more than 125 translations of contemporary French-Canadian. Fischman was named to the Order of Canada in 2002 and to the Ordre national du Québec in 2008; in the same year she received the Molson Prize in the Arts.

Read an Excerpt

Spring had arrived.
The day was so mild that I came down from the attic earlier than usual. I went out on the beach with Mr. Blue and walked to the end of the bay. I was taking a little rest, sitting on a rock that faced the river, when suddenly I noticed some footprints in the sand.
Out of curiosity, I placed my own foot in one of the prints. I was surprised to observe that they were exactly the same size. And yet these were not my prints: I hadn’t walked here for several days, and there had been time for the tide, which was very high, to obliterate my trail.
Mr. Blue was just as intrigued as I was. With his tail in the air like a question mark and his muzzle in the sand, the old cat sniffed at the prints. They led directly to a little cave I already knew was there, which one entered by edging through a very narrow gap.
The cave was divided into two rooms. In the larger one, which must have been four meters wide and three meters high, I found the remains of a campfire. Mr. Blue, who got there before me, was nosing among the remains of a fire in the middle of the floor. On a sort of long, narrow shelf formed by a projection of the rock face sat a candle, a book, and a box of matches.
I went closer to look at the book: it was The Arabian Nights. I would have liked to pick it up and turn the pages, but something held me back. I had the feeling that to do so would be indiscreet. It was as if I were in some person’s bedroom. I mean: in everything I could see there – the footprints, the objects, even in the air itself – there was a sense of somebody’s soul. I didn’t touch the book. I didn’t touch anything, I didn’t even visit the second room in the cave; I went back to the house.

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Mister Blue 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
RandyMetcalfe on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Jim is not a happy man, and his unhappiness intrudes upon his work, the writing of love stories, which proceeds at a crawl, diverts itself, pauses, grinds to a halt. He lives on an island in the St. Lawrence River in a house his father, years earlier, moved across the bay. Along with the house came memories, good and bad, of Jim¿s early life, his failed marriage, his abandoned academic career, his relationship with his younger brother. It sounds like a recipe for despair, and certainly Jim borders on that state. But he has a couple of things going for him: his cats, including Mister Blue, and an inner drive for love, which in this case takes the form of his artistic muse, the mysterious Marika, who haunts a cave near the shore and whom he longs for incessantly but never quite meets.Much of Jacques Poulin¿s novel has a dreamlike quality. It ruminates. It mulls things over. It is full of false starts, erasures, and abandoned story lines. It is, in short, perhaps, an exploration of writerly creativity. Jim¿s infatuation with (the possibly imaginary) Marika, who curiously seems to share his love of story (e.g. The Arabian Nights) and his shoe size (as evidenced by her footprints in the sand), traces the pattern of the difficulty he is having writing his current novel. Along the way, Jim encounters others who have been disappointed by love, or damaged by it. Each is working to reclaim some semblance of equanimity, or the possibility of new growth in healthier directions and locales. I wondered, as I read this short novel, how much the island in the stream (which is nevertheless close enough to the sea to be affected by the tides) symbolises the artist. But I suspect there are a number of levels of meaning interweaving here, some of which might only surface if one were to read it in its original French. Gently recommended.
EBT1002 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This is the story of a writer living in his childhood home, a rambling and dilapidated old house, with his cat, Mr. Blue. The writer falls in love with a woman he's never met (and we know he's in love long before he figures it out), and he befriends some other women who've arrived in his sparsely populated bay. The real friends are a wonderful, warm, down-to-earth middle-aged woman and Le Petit, a shy and needy teenage girl. Mr. Blue is a minor character, in some ways, and the novel is not so much about the cat as it is about the protagonist's dreams of love and his fear of real intimacy. I love the juxtaposition of the existential longings and the day-to-day practical; our protagonist also plays tennis with his brother. Just so. I marked a couple of favorite passages. As Le Petite is relaying some painful historical information about herself: "I knew that I could trust Mr. Blue. He was behaving very well. He seemed to know exactly what to do: he was curled up against her and purring, showing her how much he liked being petted by her. He was telling her in his own way that being gentle isn't necessarily a disaster and that she mustn't despair of humanity."Later, as Le Petite is engaged in a tirade against adults: This was no time to tell her that, even for older people, the need for affection was still immense, infinite, out of all proportion to reality, and eternally unsatisfied." This is not a cynical novel. It's lyrical and subtle and almost magical. Highly recommended.
Gnorma on LibraryThing 7 months ago
There is a magical quality about this story. It's very subtle, and full of delightful little details. Have you ever tried writing or imagining a story and discovered that your characters are not ready to cooperate with your plan? Rather, you cooperate with them, as the parallels in your life unfold in tandem. This is the charming theme of this book. I didn't want it to end. It has a lot of the same elements as Poulin's "Translation is a Love Affair," -- very similar compelling characters, the lovely setting, a mystery, and exquisite perception of the present moment.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Jim, the narrator of this outstanding novel, is a writer and former professor, who lives in his isolated childhood home alongside the St. Lawrence River, close to Quebec City. He lives alone, save for his old feline companion Mister Blue, as he attempts to write a "the most beautiful love story in the world." However, he has never been truly in love, and he struggles to provide a face and a voice to the woman in his novel. One day Jim walks on the bank of the river, and he is surprised to see footsteps in the sand, leading to a nearby cave. He enters, and finds evidence that someone is living there. A copy of The Arabian Nights is alongside remnants of a campfire, which has been inscribed with the name "Marie K." The novelist changes her name in his mind to "Marika", and she serves as the inspiration for the woman in his novel.He later meets a matronly woman, who knows Marika and gives him an enticing description of her. As he is befriended by the matron and a young woman, referred to as La Petite, Jim's heart is filled with Marika's presence and his growing love for her, while he awaits a reply to his letters of invitation. His friendship with La Petite deepens, as the two damaged souls find kinship and draw each other out of their emotional shells:In spite of the difference in age and the other differences, which were many, La Petite and I had several things in common. And the most important of these common points, at least the one that brought me closest to her, was perhaps this: most of the time we were, both of us, walled up inside ourselves and busy trying to stick back together the fragments of our past.Jim continues to search for the elusive Marika, as his heart progressively fills with love, longing and despair. Mister Blue is a richly layered, haunting and deeply moving novel of love and memory, in which reality and fantasy blur and merge. It is both beautifully and simply written, and I adored and identified closely with Jim and La Petite, who will reside in my heart for many days. I can't recommend this novel highly enough, and I look forward to reading more of Poulin's translated works.
jnwelch on LibraryThing 7 months ago
"I knew that I could trust Mr. Blue. He was behaving very well. He seemed to know exactly what to do: he was curled up against her and purring, showing her how much he liked being petted by her. He was telling her in his own way that being gentle isn't necessarily a disaster and that she mustn't despair of humanity."Mister Blue by Jacques Poulin is a gentle, serenely written novel about - what exactly? The narrator, Jim, is a former professor who lives in an isolated area near the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. He used to teach and write about Ernest Hemingway, and the influence of that author's simple declarative sentences can be felt throughout this book, despite its dreamier, more fantastic content. After his marriage dissolved, Jim left teaching and took up writing. Every day he labors away on a "love story", but the characters keep turning away from love to friendship instead. He believes all stories are based on real life experiences, and his writing and the novel you're reading begin overlapping in various self-referential ways."When you start to write a story, you're like a traveler who has spotted a castle in the distance. In the hope of arriving at it, you take a little road that descends a hillside toward a forest-covered valley. The road narrows and becomes a path that is obliterated here and there, and you're no longer very sure what place you've come to; you feel as if you're going in circles. Now and then, you walk through a clearing flooded with sunlight, or you swim across a river. . . . At the summit {of a mountain you've climbed} you catch sight of the castle, but it is on the next hill and it's not as beautiful as you thought: it's more like a country house or a villa. . . . In reality, it's not a castle or a villa or even a country home: it's just like a dilapidated old house that, oddly enough, looks very much like the one in which you spent your childhood."Very much, in fact, like the house he's living in.Jim's never been in love, and finds a little cave in which a woman he thinks of as "Marika" has been staying and reading Arabian Nights. He doesn't see her, but sees various indications she is near - her sailboat, her footprints which are just his size. He eventually begins to fall in love with the elusive Marika. Meanwhile, a young woman nicknamed La Petite has begun frequenting his home, dressing in his long-gone brother's and sister's clothing, reading his old articles and teaching materials, and asking him probing questions. His friendly and fatherly relationship with her is one of the highlights of the book. In the end, there is some resolution of his relationships with Marika and La Petite.There are many threads and symbols to ponder - why the title Mister Blue, for example? The cat shows up at various critical times, including as "a wink of fate" when Jim makes an important trip to Marika's cave. I had the feeling that if one did a chart of when Mister Blue appeared joined with what happened at that time, some additional insight into the author's intent would emerge. In any event, it's a smooth, peaceful read that conveys that gentleness isn't necessarily a disaster, and that there are good souls amidst a sometimes unfortunate humanity, with Jim's and La Petite's among them.
labfs39 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Jacques Poulin is a French Canadian author whose tender, thoughtful books are treasures. Vieux Chagrin, or Old Grief, oddly titled Mister Blue in the English translation, is another such gem. As always the writing is lyrical and expressive, and the action is quiet and philosophical. There is something otherworldly about Mister Blue, and yet the themes are ones with which we all must grapple.Jim is a published author and Hemingway expert who lives alone in his childhood home on the shores of Île d'Orléans. By nature a quiet and dreamy sort, Jim calls himself the slowest writer in Quebec. Sticking to a regime, Jim tries to write a page a day, but is often distracted by the view from his window, the sound of the river, his cats. He is trying to write a love story, however, never having been in love himself, he struggles with writer's block. One day, as he and Mr. Blue the cat are walking along the beach, Jim discovers footprints leading to the cave at the end of the beach. Curious he goes in and see the remnants of a fire, a candle, a book, and a box of matches.I went closer to look at the book: it was The Arabian Nights. I would have liked to pick it up and turn the pages, but something held me back. I had the feeling that to do so would be indiscreet. It was as if I were in some person's bedroom. I mean: in everything I could see there - the footprints, the objects, even in the air itself - there was a sense of somebody's soul. I didn't touch the book.Jim begins to fantasize about the owner of the book, whom he calls Marika. In a beautiful note he leaves for her, Jim writes:Now that you're there, everything seems possible, even the wildest, most secret dreams, the ones we never talk about, those that lurk beneath the surface of ourselves. I cannot help thinking that your presence is a kind of invitation to begin everything again, to start from scratch.Things begin to change for Jim, and he opens up to a world larger than his small, introverted existence. He forms new relationships which allow him to explore being a lover, a son, and a father. He ponders his soul and its protective shelter, the idea of "two hearts" (feminine and masculine) within a single body, and the meaning of family.What matters are the emotional ties that connect people and form a vast, invisible web without which the world would crumble. Everything else to which people devote the greater part of their time, looking very serious as they do so, is of only minor importance.Yet overshadowing everything for the reader is the question of the boundary between reality and dream. Is everything that Jim experiences real?
cameling on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Translated in English from French, an author's solitary writing idyll is broken when he spies footprints in the sand, oddly, the same size as his own, that lead him into a cave, wherein he finds a copy of The Arabian Nights with the name Marie K inscribed in it. Developing an obsession with a woman he hadn't seen or met, he prepares his house to receive her, sends her an invitation to visit and spies on her sailboat anchored off the cove from his attic while he struggles with a bout of writer's block. He meets 4 women who appear to know Marika (as he has named her) and begins a relationship with them, and in a way, 2 of them help unlock ideas for the book he's writing and a personal revelation. There's a beautiful tenderness that suffuses the book and in the fantasy the writer creates about and around the woman of his obsession. However, there's an unsettling moment with the youngest of the women he gets to know. She's somewhat fragile, had been abused in her childhood, is searching for her biological parents and who has taken to spending quite a lot of time in his house because she finds comfort there.I'm not quite sure why the book is titled after the name of his cat though.