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Louise Penny: return to the land of winter | Culture

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The other night I dreamed that I was returning to Three Pines, which is absurd because Three Pines doesn’t exist. It is the Canadian town of Louise Penny’s wonderful detective novels (and subsequent television series) starring detective Armand Gamache, head of the Quebec Sûreté, and a literary creation as fictional as Smallville, Tween Peaks or Jerusalem’s Lot. And yet, it is thinking about Three Pines and starting to remember all its geography, and the unspeakable cold that I experienced there, and so many unforgettable things that I experienced. Because Three Pines does not exist, but Penny invented it based on real sites, small towns in the Eastern Cantons region, between the Saint Lawrence River and the Quebec border with the United States.

In the middle of the harsh winter of 2016 (“Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver”—“My country is not a country, it is winter”—, Gilles Vigneault, the Blanc-Sablon poet) I traveled there to interview Penny, who lives in the village of Knowlton, next to Loch Brome, a place so far away that she would have a hard time reaching Jesuit Joe. Jet lag, driving a rented car in the middle of a heavy snowfall from Montreal (about a hundred kilometers) and having a moose cross my path on the road did not help my head, which was also encased in a thick balaclava, to be very clear. Given my state and my sense of direction, it’s strange that I didn’t end up in Manitoba. So I have confusing and disjointed memories of the time I spent there, partly wandering around lost. I stopped in Standbridge East and visited a small museum in an old watermill displaying Spencer rifles from the Red Sashes of Missiquoi, the region’s Canadian volunteer militia that fought off the invasion of the 1870s. the Irish-American Fenians, an episode I had no idea about. Missiquoi It is a word from the Abenaki Indians that means “rich in waterfowl.” He puts it in my Moleskine notebook corresponding to that trip and full of equally important notes. Some are difficult to decipher because they are written shakily. I was so cold all the time (we were almost 30 degrees below zero) that I would have been able to kill a beaver with my bare hands and skin it to make a warm hat like Daniel Boone’s.

Then the image comes to mind, behind the window of a bar where I was vainly trying to warm up, of a woodpecker climbing the trunk of a tree. It was a “pic chevelu” (Picoides villosus)I know this because I identified it later thanks to a small volume, Winter birds in Quebec, by Peter Lane, Editions Heritage of Montreal, 1980, which I took, with surreptitious manners worthy of the Huron Indian Magua, from the Abercorn home of the Lapointe family, where they had kindly welcomed me. Fortunately, they didn’t have a Spencer rifle.

I saw the three pine trees everywhere (like in Frelighsburg, at whose gas station I met my first Canadian Mounted Police, of whom I have great memories), which I attributed to my hallucinatory state, although it turned out that they were real, the pine trees , in some towns: they were an old secret sign of belonging to the loyalist cause (to the British crown). In Knowlton I remember walking knee-deep in snow like a shabby knock-off of Dr. Zhivago to the old courthouse where historical artifacts were on display like a canoe that looked like something out of The last Mohicanrelics of the war against Tecumseh and possessions of the outlaw local Donald Morrison. I also saw, with natural surprise and pinching myself in case I was dreaming, a German Fokker D. VII biplane from the First World War that was kept in a kind of shed museum.

“In those woods, winter was a magnificent killer, splendid and luminous.”

One of the most pleasant places to visit was the Brome Lake Books / Livres Lac Brome bookstore, which, apart from the full heating, has a space dedicated to Louis Penny and his works (18 titles of the Gamache series published in English, 10 of them already in Spanish) and where they sell you objects related to their books, such as maps, t-shirts, key chains, coffee mugs with the silhouette of the three pine trees or the motto “Vive Gamache”. I put all this together to make my sister Patricia angry, who is not only a big fan of Penny but also her enthusiastic translator into Spanish. Since you are cold at least they envy you. I even thought about bringing him a goose like the one. Rosa of the outstanding national poet Ruth Zardo, one of the most unique characters in the Penny series. But anyone found a white goose in the snow. In the bookstore, where I bought the Quebec amoreaux dictionary by Denise Bombardier (Plon, 2014), and The wood runners, by Jeanne Pomerlau (Éditions Dupont, 1996), about the tough guys who were involved in the skin trade with the Amerindians and which includes popular songs for when it freezes to the point of view (“Ah! Que l’hiver est long, / que ce temps est ennuyant! / Nuit et jour mon coeur soupire / de voir vino le doux printemps” — “Ah! How long is the winter / how boring is this climate / night and day my heart sighs / waiting for the sweet spring—), are also organized tours for the locations of the novels, although not even the most masochistic Gamache follower would have hired one in winter. The only advantage of the season is that the bears hibernate.

I stayed with Penny in a nearby town with the ominous name—seen from today—of Sutton. It was a very pleasant meeting (although we did not taste the grouse with roasted figs and cauliflower puree), dedicated especially to talking about the novel that he had just published in Spanish at the time, Bury the dead (one of my favorites because there are many historical references and none other than the Marquis de Montcalm, the ambiguous French commander in the film, appears The last Mohican), although the writer later sent me to a tour frissant through the city of Quebec where I ended up almost like General Wolf after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (which is right there). “Why do we live here and not in Barbados?”, a character asks with a lot of common sense. of Penny chilled.

The writer Louise Penny, pictured during her visit to Barcelona to present ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’, from the police series Armand Gamache, on March 29. Enric Fontcuberta (EFE)

All these beautiful memories came flooding back to me the other day when I met in Barcelona with Louis Penny, who was presenting his latest book published in Spanish, The kingdom of the blind. I previously devoured the novel, one of the best in the series, 446 pages that combine, as only Penny knows how, intrigue, violence, humanity—”the question is: what do people keep in their hearts?”—and the cold. (35 degrees below zero, “but it is dry cold”). “My books are not just about murders,” he explained in the + Bernat Bookstore, full of Penny people. “There are other challenges, other issues, community, love, friendship, forgiveness and what happens if we fail to forgive.” In the new novel, which has several plot lines, Gamache, still pending a decision on his professional future after the police operation that has not prevented a stash of a drug one hundred times worse than fentanyl, carfentanil (!), from being About to reach the street, he finds himself involved in a will and a strange family matter with crime included. The two investigations, that of the missing drug and that of the inheritance, run in parallel throughout the novel, which includes all the usual wonderful secondary characters. Three Pines appears in a good part of the book (also the underworld of Montreal), and the Quebec winter, “which he could kill, and every year he did,” is omnipresent. The crunch of snow under boots, crack, crunch; crack, crunch. The big, soft, relentless flakes. “In those woods, winter was a magnificent killer, splendid and luminous.”

At the center of the novel is Gamache, who lives “in the abode of pain” of his arduous police decisions and at the same time in the lullaby of family and friends. Midway between horror and love, skeptical and compassionate like a Marcus Aurelius of the Sûreté, he considers, despite all the rot he has seen, that we all have the possibility of saving ourselves. And he is willing to pitch in to help. I read that same feeling again in Penny’s eyes the other day at the Igueldo restaurant, when I approached to greet her at the end of the day and she raised her head with her permanent smile. A person who believes in second chances and in the intrinsic goodness of human beings.

She has always said that Gamache was her husband Michael and in fact she was about to leave the series after his death. However, it seems to me that Gamache is actually her, as she is the winter of her country. A winter that sparkles in her lady-of-crime eyes, bright blue as ice, but at the same time full of the promise of warmth of tea or hot chocolate and a good conversation by the stove. The crackling of maple logs at a bonfire, a hot dog at a Canadians hockey game, a smile. Therein lies the Grace. In the midst of cold and desolation, goodness, goodness.

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