A startling new best seller from Quebec which reveals the anger—and love—behind the bombs
THE NEXT EPISODE
A startling new best seller from Quebec which reveals the anger—and love—behind the bombs
Prochain Episode (The Next Episode) is a story of love, of revolution and, above all, of the terrible waiting that precedes both. The events are fictional, but the emotions are real, for the book was written by Hubert Aquin, a thirtyseven-year-old film producer, scriptwriter and onetime member of the separatist RIN, during a three-month stay in a mental hospital. He’d been sent there for examination after being charged with possession of a loaded revolver. The case against him ended in an acquittal, but his book is still sending shock waves through French Canada. It has already sold more than six thousand copies in Quebec — “We have found our great leader,” exulted one critic—and next fall will appear in Paris, and in English Canada in a translation by McClelland & Stewart. These excerpts, the first to be published in English, provide a startling glimpse into the mind and heart of a Canadian revolutionary.
Translated especially for Maclean's by Penny Gail Williams
PROCHAIN EPISODE is the story of an unnamed Quebec separatist sent to Switzerland by his party to assassinate a man called H. de Heutz, an RCMP agent who has uncovered the party’s anonymous Swiss bank account. One morning he agrees to meet his mistress and fellow separatist “K” that evening in Lausanne, and leaves their hotel to find his victim. The search finally leads him to his enemy’s chateau. He enters, and awaits the return of its owner. Hours pass, and the jittery patriot worries equally about H. de Heutz and about missing his appointment with “K” in Lausanne.
i N THIS ROOM, heavy with the personality of H. de Heutz, I fall prey to a sweeping emotion that fills me with the terror of childhood. Under the assault of this shadowy impulse, I cease to be a man. Old tears will come to my eyes. My three days of seclusion in the hotel did not empty all my tears, and my setbacks have not hardened me. Only the erratic progress of the revolution gives me spirit. Soon, in the depths of an Alpine valley at 6.30, the revolution will carry me to the woman I love. It is the revolution which united us in a huge bed just above the St. Lawrence, just as it now has reunited us, after twelve months of separation, in a room in the Hôtel d’Angleterre ... I can't take any more of this gloomy museum: it seems to freeze me in eternity, a naked and helpless warrior. I await H. de Heutz with death in my soul.
The action I was so eager to carry out now seems impossible. I am shattered by the violence 1 have not yet committed. My energy is gone; my own desolation burdens me. The agony has no outlet, just as it had none for my comrades that time in Saint-Eustache. We are a broken people who march in disorder through the streets . . .
But how shall I grapple with the cold wind which numbs me and define the evil that makes me waver? My love, my love! I am afraid that I'll fail; I am giving way. You will despise me if you learn of my weakness, but here it is, the inevitable face of my cowardice! I lack heart. Our uncertain revolution sullies me: it is not I who am unworthy, it is the revolution which betrays and abandons me! If the great event would only arrive and give birth to the chaos that is my life! And quickly, for I am at the point of yielding to our historic fatigue . . .
Here I am, without an enemy and without a reason, far from the violence which orders all this, far from the swelling banks of our St. Lawrence. I need H. de Heutz. If he never arrives, what will become of me? When he is not before me, I forget that I want to kill him and I no longer feel the blind necessity of our cause. This interval in a chateau is going to overcome my convictions. My solitary mission becomes vague with the passing of this lost afternoon. No project can withstand the confusion of waiting. What time is it? I still don't know.
And if H. de Heutz doesn't return? And if our revolution never takes place? What would happen to us then? And what would we have to say to each other tonight at 6.30 when we meet on the terrace of the Hôtel d’Angleterre?
OUTSIDE, THE DAY WANES. In a single afternoon the whole summer escapes me, and turns majestically to the west. I am weakened by the sadness of passing time and my indecision. It is not only the summer which flies, but my youth and our life together which began one spring on the road from Acton Vale to Richmond when we attended a clandestine rendezvous and the feeble sun spread a tragic light over the last patches of snow which had softly fallen, just as we had softly fallen into the bed where we first made love.
The history of the revolution in our country mixes with that of our feverish embraces and our nights of love. The first rumblings of the FLO united our lives. Everywhere together, naked but hidden, united to our brothers in revolution and" silence, it was the smell of gunpowder which taught us the exalted gestures of love. A vast bat-
tlefield, the snowy earth of our country taught us our love. The English names of our towns repeat the extent of the conquest, which I relearned in conquering you, my beloved, with my delirious caresses and the games of death. Your native country made me a revolutionary; on your lyrical body l sleep and I live. In the depth of your midnight belly, I strike and shake with joy.
My love, you are my native land, which I seize with both hands, the shadowy, fleeting land which I fertilize and where I fight to the death. On that Eastern Townships road, between Acton Vale and Richmond, close to Durham South, and everywhere we went — Saint-Zotiquc-de Kotska, Eboulements, Rimouski, Sherbrooke, Murray Bay for three days and nights, Saint-Eustache and Saint-Dénis — we never ceased preparing the war of liberation, mixing our intimacies with the terrible secret of a nation declaring herself, and armed violence with the violence of the hours of love.
Dazzled and entwined in a country in distress, we have taken a single kiss from one end to the other of our snowy bed. It was not evasion which sent us from village to village; we sought the fraternity of the revolution. It was not solitude which nourished our passion, but the river of brothers marching close to us and awkwardly preparing for revolution. The sound of their steps marshalled our fury, and their sadness shook our bodies. While 1 fingered your dress, we heard their breath. The unfolding of our love traces the black calendar of the revolution which I call by your name! Our love prepares the insurrection, our nights of kisses' and delirium foreshadow the future. As we yield to the spasms of the night, our brothers are overwhelmed by the same sacriligeous event which melts our two bodies into one lyrical whole.
When H. de Heutz finally arrives, the patriot misses his shot and is fortunate to escape from his intended victim with his life. He arrives in Lausanne too late: “K” has been sent on a mission to the north, leaving him a message on her blue stationery urging that he return to Quebec. He flies back and in a few days is arrested by the RCMP. In prison, he takes up his story again:
MY TARDINESS AT OUR RENDEZVOUS was a disaster: from that moment on, my life has been fractured. All that awaited me, when I finally arrived, was a note proffered by the hotel receptionist with the discouraging smile of a clerk delivering a subpoena. Strange:
I never once asked myself whether that bit of blue paper could have been an enemy ruse to precipitate my return to Montreal, and. in the course of things, my capture in a church. At no time did I doubt the message; and I don't even recall studying the appearance of “K's” handwriting. I was too overcome.
Anyway, who could have left me a note with the receptionist at the Hôtel d'Angleterre? Nobody knew that we had a meeting set for 6.30 on the terrace. Nobody. Certainly, the allusion she made to Hamidou gave me thought: “K” knew him, it seemed, but how did she know that he was also a friend of mine? Also . . . but I prefer to delay analyzing this train of events. At the moment, I cannot see what set it in motion. Later, I shall see all that very clearly after 1 have found again the woman I love.
But until that time, I have no right to question myself about anything, for in doing so I would still be obeying H. de Heutz, who, throughout the whole affair, used every means to make me doubt. I feel that each time I yield to disbelief, I continue to obey him and to conform to the demonic plot he has woven around me.
But all has not been said. And in any case, I must remain invulnerable to doubt in the name of what is sacred to me, for I carry in me the seed of the revolution. 1 am its tabernacle, its impure tabernacle. I am an ark of the covenant — and of despair, for I failed! I feel I am through, but everything hasn’t died with me. My story is interrupted, for I do not know the first word of the next episode. But everything will resolve itself in beauty. I have blind faith, even if I know nothing of the next chapter except that it awaits me and will carry me off in a whirlwind.
All the words yet to be said have me by the throat; the ancient
serenity of our language will burst
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THE NEXT EPISODE
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with the shock of the recital. Yes, the sureness of what is yet to come will conquer our faithless terror; guns will paint revolutionary symbols across the pages.
I have chafed with frustration since the Cuban revolution, and now the Alpine foothills which encircled our kisses blur in my memory. But I am sure of the future. Already 1 feel the irresistible pressure of the next episode.
What I have not written makes me tremble. Uncertain of everything. I know at least that when finally I lift myself beyond this semi - government and my prison bed, I will have no time to take up my recital again, nor to tie down the rush of events in a logical structure. It will be too late; and I will not waste my energy in awaiting the perfect opportunity. It will be time to strike, in the back if possible. The time will have come to kill and to organize destruction by the ancient doctrines of strife and the anonymous guns of the guerilla! It will be time to replace parliamentary battles with real ones. After two centuries of agony, we will burst out in disordered violence, in an uninterrupted series of attacks and shocks, the black fulfillment of a project of total love . . .
No, I will not finish this book: the last chapter is missing and I shall not have time to write it down when it finally happens. Then I will not be recording lost time. The pages will write themselves in gunfire: the words will whistle over our heads, the sentences will break upon each other in the air . . .
He will enter my web
When the battles are over, the revolution will continue; only then will I perhaps have the time to finish this book and to kill H. de Heutz once and for all. It will take place as I have envisaged it. H. de Heutz will return to that funereal chateau where I lost my youth. But this time I shall be well prepared for his arrival. I shall be on guard, crouched in the eavestrough. The arrival of the Mercedes 300 SE, iron-grey with Zurich license plates, will commit me to action.
First I shall tiptoe from the opening in the wall to the Henry II credenza, tripping the safety catch on my revolver as I go. And as soon as I have heard the movement of the key in the lock, H. de Heutz will enter the room and — without knowing it — enter my web as well. I shall strike even before he reaches the telephone; he will die with the flashing knowledge of my trap. I shall lean over his body to check his wristwatch, and will learn that it is still possible to reach Hôtel d’Angleterre in time.
That will be the end of my story. Yes, I shall emerge victorious, placidly killing H. de Heutz to rush to you. my love, to close my story in splendor. Yes, finally the end of the story: since everything has an end. I will rejoin the woman who still waits for me on the terrace of the Hôtel d’Angleterre. That is what I shall say in the last sentence of my novel. And several lines below, I shall write in capita! letters: END
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