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Fiction Dystopian

The Second Substance

by (author) Anne Lardeux

translated by Pablo Strauss

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Jun 2022
Dystopian, 21st Century, Feminist, Small Town & Rural
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
    List Price

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Squatters at a rural gas station try to find freedom and build something new on the ashes of our petrocivilization in this sensual novel.

A community of outsiders takes over an abandoned gas station. They spend their days ripping up asphalt, drinking beer and eating hot dogs, and wandering through woods and towns in search of new ways of living. People come and go: a charismatic landscaper, Italian anarchists, a policewoman, travellers. A teenager drifts into homelessness. And The Girl With No Name keeps a journal of her attempts to meet new people and sleep with them, sex that is “not a sideline” but the motivating force in a story she is struggling to understand.

Neighbors grow hostile. An investigation threatens the community. Tension builds between the surface violence of “normal life” and the attempt of these outsiders to experience freedom and build something new on the ashes of our oil-addicted society.

With a character borrowed from Agnès Varda’s Vagabond and inspiration taken from Anne Boyer’s writings, Anne Lardeux’s highly original debut assembles elements of poetry, film, and visual arts into an exuberant choral novel, an ode to the daughters of fire and to the poetry of the body. Often funny, sometimes raunchy, consistently surprising, never flinching, The Second Substance heralds an important new voice in Quebec literature.

About the authors

Anne Lardeux was raised in France and lives and works in Montreal, where she painstakingly follows her ideas and convictions where they lead. Her multidisciplinary practice spans music, film, and writing, and is not easily separable from her social activism and caring work. Together they constitute an unsparingly honest but playful interrogation of how we live that turns up glimmers of hope in unlikely places. The Second Substance (Les mauvais plis) is her first novel.

Anne Lardeux's profile page

Pablo Strauss’s previous translations for Coach House Books are The Country Will Bring Us No Peace, The Supreme Orchestra, and Baloney. He is a two-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for translation, for Synapses (2019) and The Longest Year (2017). Pablo grew up in Victoria, B.C., and has lived in Quebec City for fifteen years.

Pablo Strauss' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Shelve Anne Lardeux with Québécoise writers like Mikella Nicol and Christiane Vadnais, and internationally with Yun Ko-eun, Véronique Tadjo, Jenny Hval, and Sandrine Colette—writers whose characters are terrorized and galvanized by narrative." – Marcie McCauley, World Literature Today

"Much like the self-described mind of the book's primary narrator The Girl With No Name, Lardeux's writing is 'sharp as a blade but tender' and, with this assured first book, claims a unique corner of its own within the wide field of contemporary dystopian lit." – Alexa W., Powell's Books

"After reading [The Second Substance], you may forget how to read from left to right, or walk by putting one foot in front of the other … A mix of black humour, the absurd, and little stories in a highly inventive style …" Le Matricule des Anges (France)

"A strongly erotic first novel swept along by free, sensual writing, an ode to the daughters of fire and the poetry of the body."Les libraires (Quebec)

"Walk in the woods, hunt, chop wood, fuck, sleep — and the cycle repeats… a return to animal instincts and the senses […] A compelling first novel with a surprising mastery of language and style." – Bruno Cloutier (Quebec)

"An archipelago, The Second Substance’s islands comprise diary entries, film script, fantasy sequences, and authorial confessions." – Jacob James Bews, Filling Station Magazine