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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Bertrand Laverdure

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To purchase Readopolis

Title: Readopolis
Author: Bertrand Laverdure
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 254 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Readopolis - US
Readopolis - UK
Readopolis - Canada
Lectodôme - Canada
Lectodôme - France
  • French tityle: Lectodôme
  • Translated by Oana Avasilichioaei

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Our Assessment:

B : good fun, and quite a few clever bits to it

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Canadian Literature . Winter/2017 Sarah Banting
Le Devoir A 18/10/2008 Christian Desmeules
Quill & Quire . 7/2017 Steven W. Beattie

  From the Reviews:
  • "Readopolis is a challenging, dispiriting, intellectual novel about reading and (or as) living, and about one reader's fervent -- if largely fantasied -- efforts to promote the best of Quebec literature while weeding out the worst. (...) The novel's form echoes the texture of Ghislain's omnivorous readerly consciousness by skipping between different genres and texts. (...) Ghislain bugged me. I struggled, too, with the novel's stylistic trait of non-sequitur; Ghislain often jumps from thought to thought in such a way that I couldn't follow the stream of consciousness or make much meaning across those jumps. And his fantasies of a jubilant new reading culture jarred against his distaste for the manuscripts he reviews. (...) But I celebrate two things in particular about Readopolis: its abundant and occasionally gorgeous use of metaphor (...) and its rapturous interlude -- presented literally as a footnote to the storyline -- of imagining the real-life Montreal literati all coming together to celebrate the international success of a (fictive) new novel." - Sarah Banting, Canadian Literature

  • "Difficile à résumer, véritable roman arc-en-ciel (correspondance, scénario de cinéma, parodie, microroman dans le roman, dialogues philosophiques), Lectodôme recourt à tout un arsenal narratif et de digressions nourrissantes. (...) Brillant, ludique, péremptoire à souhait, Lectodôme a tout pour installer Laverdure dans l'aile sécurisée des grands «malades» de littérature." - Christian Desmeules, Le Devoir

  • "Virtually plotless and told in a postmodern, hyper-self-reflexive manner that incorporates everything from email correspondence to mock screenplay dialogue to an extract from an imagined novella (complete with its own copyright page), Readopolis is a stylistically ebullient interrogation of the effect that literature has on the readers who consume it. (...) His novel is unlikely to appeal to a mass audience, but it testifies to the audacious energy and technical experimentation that continues to typify the literature coming out of la belle provence." - Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The central figure in Readopolis, Ghislain -- who also narrates much of the book -- is a truly, almost single-mindedly dedicated reader. He is a passionate consumer of literature, but also a professional, taking on the thankless task of reading manuscripts for publishers and evaluating them for, if he's lucky, the UNRQ-recommended rate of C$30.00 per manuscript (apparently since revised to 22.00 C$/hour), though he emphasizes: "it is not really work; it's a vocation, a calling". (Unsurprisingly, given the limited renumeration, he also has an evening job, as a Couche-Tard convenience store clerk .....)
       Ghislain does take his reading seriously:

     I don't dare entertain myself by reading. It's not out of snobbery; only a show of respect towards an activity that teaches us to live fully and to think. I belong to the cult of the devotees of the book.
       His particular passion is Quebecois literature, and there's something of the missionary to him: as a friend notes: "When it comes down to it, Ghislain is a sectarian, a Jehovah's Witness of the Quebecois book". As a reader for publishers he wants to contribute to the culture -- "I wanted to choose good books" --, hoping to have some influence in his small role, hoping to inject: "a dose of my tastes, which I believed to be sound, into the publishing program of a publishing house I admired". And Readopolis is both paean to and lament for underappreciated Quebecois literature: among Ghislain's ambitions is: "to recruit readers for the authors I had liked" -- and Readopolis is, in part, Laverdure's similar effort.
       Readopolis is itself a motley narrative, much of it presented from Ghislain's perspective but also including e-mails, dialogue-scenes (complete with characters observing: "I feel like I'm in one of Plato's dialogues" ), and even a novel(la)-within-the-novel, Extractor 568 by one Mime Wotan, complete with copyright-information page and its own ISBN number. (The work begins promisingly: "My name is Ezekiel Bradeau and I kill readers who don't like my books".) A multi-page footnote scene imagines a special episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show -- "Oprah is today's Simone de Beauvoir", apparently --, assembling: "All those in the Montreal world of letters" (and Laverdure really does squeeze in pretty much everyone who was anyone at the time). And there's a short film-script, Diderot Interlude, with Pierre-Luc Brillant in the role of Ghislain, and Rémy Girard as Denis Diderot, with Diderot buying some beef-jerky at a Couche-Tard, the opening exchange:
DIDEROT: I am Diderot.
GHISLAIN: I am Ghislain the reader.
       Another character runs a website called The Official Wizard of Books, where he:
predicts the titles of books to come, books that will be published in the near future, within a maximum of five years. For fans of bibliophilic sites, he has literally become the Nostradamus of the publishing world.
       (This is among the less successful concepts in the novel, given the long gestation time of many books until they finally make it into print.)
       There are relationship issues, some movie-watching and criticism, and a parrot straight out of Queneau's Zazie in the Metro (if mainly for its name, of course: Laverdure). Above all, however, is the ideal of literature -- and the frustration at how much goes un- and under-appreciated.
       The action and description does move beyond the literary, including other bits in the lives of its characters, but Ghislain does live very much in the 'Readopolis' of the title ('Lectodôme', in the original), and it always comes back to (Quebecois) literature for him, and thus for the reader.
       It makes for an appealing grab-bag -- more enjoyable snack-pack variety than sustained effort, but cohesive enough to function reasonably well as a novel. It is knowingly-insider regarding this particular literary scene, but Laverdure ranges far enough with and beyond that for it to be of sufficient appeal even to those with less familiarity with it. There's a good deal of humor, too, which helps -- with Ghislain's fundamental sincerity (he's a true believer) nicely grounding the whole.
       Good fun, particularly to the literary- (and specifically Canadian-literary-) interested.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 May 2020

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Readopolis: Reviews: Other books by Bertrand Laverdure under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Canadian author Bertrand Laverdure was born in 1967.

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