I have no words… A presentation of the 5th issue of HYBRIDA

  • Domingo Pujante Gonzalez
  • February 7th, 2023

The central dossier of the fifth issue of HYBRIDA, coordinated by Fabio Libasci, addresses the multiple questions that surround the notion of extreme, both chronologically and conceptually.

He looks at me. Sometimes, he whispers words that I cannot understand. And then he sits on the bed and pulls the covers aside. He says my name in a hushed voice: “are you asleep, honey?”There is no hope, he is about to start. I open my eyes in the darkness of a room that slowly begins to lit up and reveals Dad’s face.
I have no words to describe what he does to me in this room. I will never be able to speak about it. I can only tell it to myself, so I don’t lose me.
Lori Saint-Martin (1999). Mon père, la nuit (p. 7). L’instant même.

The third winter solstice has come for the HYBRIDA journal.

I have had the pleasure to spend my birthday in Montreal, to welcome autumn with all its changing colours and enjoy the energy of yellow, my favourite colour, in an infinite variety of tones: lemon, cadmium, ochre, mustard, aureolin, Indian, Naples, Sienna, Cambodia… The International Association of Quebec Studies, embodied by the priceless Suzie Beaulieu, contributed to the success of this month-long stay at the Université de Montréal. The Association was hosted by Catherine Mavrikakis, a renowned writer, an amazing and generous woman who had just published her last novel, Niagara (2022), as well as by her fellow academic and family circle: her brother Nicolas Mavrikakis, a very insightful art critic, her husband, the distinguished literature professor Terry Cochran, and her daughter Loulou, who always has a smile on her face…

October is an especially busy month for Montreal culture, so I was able to participate in an intense cultural life: new publications, theatre activities, art exhibitions, conferences organised by the Quebec film library (including the magnificent retrospective on the works by the Canadian Bruce LaBruce)… I loved visiting the bookshops in the city, which are always exciting and busy. I had the chance to get a close look at the Quebec publishing sector, which is undoubtedly experiencing a new golden age, with long-established publishers such as Gallimard (whose former director, Rolf Puls, told me numerous literary anecdotes as we enjoyed oysters and sea urchins from the northern seas, and whose current CEO, Florence Noyer, also welcomed me). I also visited the publisher Boréal several times, where I was warmly received by Jean Bernier. We had some moments of great closeness in which we shared our passion for Marie-Claire Blais, of whom he knows every single detail, and we mourned the heart-breaking death of the young writer Simon Roy in October, who had been in Valencia to present his first novel Ma vie rouge Kubrick (2014), as well as that of Lori Saint-Martin a few days later. I would also like to mention the publisher Héliotrope. An authentic gem. I had the privilege to share some deep literary and more intimate conversations, as well as a wonderful promenade on the Mount Royal. We stopped at a small pastry shop in the Portuguese neighbourhood and we enjoyed a coffee with Héliotrope’s director, Olga Duhamel-Nouer, who is also a writer. Olga manages this publishing house, which undoubtedly breathes a new and stimulating air. For this reason, when I came back to Valencia, my suitcase was full and I was left with many readings for the coming months.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet a variety of writers of all ages – in some instances in a kind of intense way – including, in alphabetical order, Martine Audet, Arianne Bessette (a discrete and sensitive writer with whom I instantly connected), Lula Carballo (“my Lula”, my double), David Clerson, Pierre-André Doucet (a charming writer and notable musician from Acadia), Clara Dupuis-Morency, Benjamin Gagnon Chainey, Julien Guy-Béland (an exceptional and committed person, a striking author) and Monique Proulx, whom I welcomed in Valencia and greatly value as a writer and as a person. We shared croissants and homemade marmalade on her balcony while we watched leaves fall from the trees and she read me her last novel, Enlève la nuit (2022). I had, as well, the pleasure to meet Lori Saint-Martin, of course.

I cannot forget Alex Noël, professor at the Université de Montréal, specialist in recent literature of Quebec and queer memory. He was, in fact, the one who showed to me the works of the interdisciplinary Canadian artist Kama La Mackerel, born in Mauritius. I would also love to mention Antonio Domínguez Leiva, writer and Spanish professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, whom I lost contact with and with whom I share many literary interests regarding the body, monstruosity and “panic”. Lastly, I must mention two dancers: Francis Paradis, a cultured and empathic person who always listened to me and helped me discover some remarkable places, and Achraf El Ebed, a Tunisian dancer who was granted political asylum in Montreal due to the persecution of the LGBTQ collective in his country. For this reason, Achraf could not visit Valencia during the Queer Maghreb colloquium that we organised in June 2022. He danced for us in my house located in the Red Light in Montreal, which is not too far from the emblematic Café Cléopâtre. It was my birthday and my friend Adela Cortijo came to visit me for the occasion. I will never forget that moment. It was magical. I want to thank everyone for making this stay in Montreal something so special and enriching in all the possible ways.

As I said, we have lost Lori Saint-Martin, an excellent Canadian professor, translator and writer, who chose French as a haven language, a person of reinvented identity and, among everything, a very close and generous one, who abruptly went missing in the Senna. Ghostly shadows invade my heart and mind as a result of this tragic, fatal and somewhat novelistic fate, so much so that I do not want to accept it… and, yet, Lori has left us. One last WhatsApp message some days prior to the disaster: “Aquí todo bien (’Everything is fine over here’). She loved Spanish, her new home, her new passion. Lori, my friend, you have broken my soul and left a vast emptiness that is difficult to fill. I have only words of gratitude towards you.

And yet, life goes on. It flows… like the tears of the mothers that lose their children in war. This world screams to be taken care of, that we develop a sustainable and efficient ecologic conscience…

These are catastrophic times… Excessive… Scandalous…

And yet, it is the time of Saturnalia and Christmas, of holidays, carols, wishes, a time to decorate our homes, to light up the candles and make gifts, of dreaming about peace, love and health… to release the tensions we feel. It is, as well, the time to relax, recharge our batteries and recover our breaths to look towards a brighter future, even though…

Let’s go back to our thing…

The central dossier of the fifth issue of the HYBRIDA journal, coordinated by Fabio Libasci, addresses the multiple questions that surround the notion of extreme, both chronologically and conceptually. In fact, the expression extrême contemporain is ever-changing and is continuously awakening interests – and causing problems – since it was first attributed to Michel Chaillou in the late eighties. In fact, we are witnessing a “second generation” of the extrême contemporain. We could, therefore, update it to refer to the most recent cultural and literary productions in a broader sense.

From a thematic stand-point, the extreme is immediately associated with the notion of limit, excess and even violence. In this sense, it is clear that the trend and the presence of an aesthetical rupture and excess in contemporary authors, both young and veteran, who have brought us to examine the uses and, maybe, the abuse of this ever-changing and fragile notion. This dossier contains four articles from the Ivory Coast, Finland and France, in which works by writers Azo Vauguy, Koffi Kwahulé and Hélène Cixous, as well as filmmakers such as Anne Fontaine, Christopher Doyle and Julien Abraham, are analysed.

In the “Mosaic” section, we are publishing, as well, four really interesting articles. Relying on the historical revision proposed by postcolonial and subaltern studies, Hassna Mabrouk, from the Chouaib Doukkali University (Morocco), rekindles the historical figure of Mustafa Al-Azemmouri or Estevanico, an explorer and interpreter from the beginning of the 16th century mainly known in Europe from the accounts by Cabeza de Vaca, too eurocentric to be contrasted with other representations of the explorer, as well as Al-Azemmouri from Les vertus immorales (2009) by Kebir M. Ammi or the artistic representations that are still alive in the Moroccan city of Azemmour, where he was born. Ahmed Aziz Houdzi, also from the Chouaib Doukkali University, analyses the identity transformations of the diaspora in relation to the historical events in a French context marked by the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. Moreover, he proposes a reading of Ce vain combat que tu livres au monde (2016) by Fouad Laroui, in which the main character debates between the desire to be integrated in the laic society and the fundamentalist temptation embodied by the Islamic State. Lourdes Rubiales Bonilla, from the University of Cádiz, analyses the “Batouala issue”.In her article, she carefully analyses how the novel Bataouala was received and diffused by the press after being granted the Prix Goncourt in 1921. Véritable roman nègre by René Maran. In this way, she tries to highlight the censorship mechanisms in an attempt to neutralise the political discourse of the writer. Lastly, Diana Requena Romero, from the Universitat de València, addresses the problems that arise from the study of female characters in the works of Boris Vian. For this, she has selected a little-studied corpus of stories by the author in order to identify the processes of metamorphosis in the body and the images of hybridisation of the woman-animal placed in intermediary spaces.

In the more creative “Traces” section, we include three contributions. We have the honour to publish a fragmentary bilingual French-Spanish text titled Restos de barrios (“Remains of neighbourhoods”), by Uruguay-born Quebec writer Lula Carballo. Fragments of the past are intermingled with the rupture of the discourse in search for new paths of literary expression. Her first novel, Créatures du hasard (2018), was greatly received by critics. She published as well the illustrated album Ensemble nous voyageons (2021), written in collaboration with Catherine-Anne Laranjo and illustrated by Kesso. Caraballo carefully explores the memories linked to childhood and adolescence in a social context marked by poverty and migration, as well as cultural hybridisation and the search of identity directed by emotion and an obvious feminist posture in support of minorities.

We are also publishing Alexandre Melay’s [TIMESCAPES], a photographic document that reflects his worries about the environment and shares with us his committed vision of “impossibility of the landscape” and the “implacable structuralist deconstruction of the subject”. These black and white photographs, a kind of cartography of grey and polluted cities and invaded by waste and inhospitable elements in the era of the “Capitalocene”, constitute a good example of the “urban contemporary extreme”.

Lastly, Natalia L. Ferreri, form the National University of Córdoba, and Francisco Aiello, from the National University of Mar del Plata (Argentina), have chosen our journal to publish a long interview in Spanish with the French writer Laura Alcoba, born in Argentina in 1968, titled ¿Para qué sirven las historias? (“What are stories for?”). After mentioning her sixth and most recent novel, Par la forêt (2022), where the narrator evokes traumatic experiences such as infanticide, suicide and exile, Ferreri and Aillo tackle with skill and softness the essential questions that concern Alcoba’s writing, in which translation, the mother tongue and the subject of the stories play a fundamental role.

We open the section “Variety”, which diffuses research publications or those creations that are aligned with the interests of perspectives of our journal through reviews and critical commentaries. In this sense, we publish a very interesting and complete review by Martine Renouprez, from the University of Cádiz, about the book by Laurence Planète en ébullition. Écologie, féminisme et responsabilité (2022).

Our journal begins to take off, to be indexed, listed and present in almost all the world thanks to the great interest shown by the African researchers in particular. Thank you so much! We hope you enjoy the reading. See you in June 2023 to question the “borders” in a dossier titled LIMES.

Sol invictus.

Domingo Pujante González / Director of HYBRIDA. Universitat de València