Tuesday, July 12, 2011

O Quebec IV: The Golden Book

Photo by Hallie Cohen

Le Livre d’Or is the name of store on la rue Principale Sud, which is Main Street in Sutton, a high-end tourist destination in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Sutton boasts tasteful shopping nooks and upscale B and B’s, exemplified by Le Pleasant Hotel and Café, whose stark modernity embodies the anomalous cosmopolitanism you’ll find in similar out-of-the-way oases of sophistication like Kinsale in southern Ireland. Le Livre d’Or is one block down from rue Pine and two blocks from rue Maple, the street names reminding us that Sutton, for all its Frenchness, is only a hop, skip and a jump from the English speaking world. On the used book table is the Livre de Poche edition of Ernest Hemingway’s L’Adieu aux armes, published by Gallimard in 1948. It begins, “Cette année là, à la fin de l’été, nous habitons une maison dans un village qui, par-delà la revière et la plaine, donnait sur les montagnes.” Next to L’Adieu aux armes is Milan Kundera’s L’Insoutenable légèreté de l’être, published by Folio. It would not be surprising to find these tomes in a bookstall overlooking the Seine, but the proximity of Le Livre d’Or to the U.S. border makes the cultural displacement all the more startling. Signs on the road outside of Sutton alert drivers to la Douane, or customs, which is only a few miles away. No culture wars are being fought on rue Maple, but it’s a different civilization.

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