Life Sideways

Short Stories. English transl. with a Foreword by Steven Urquhart of La vie de biais. Victoria, BC: Ekstasis Editions, 2015, 172p. ISBN 978-1-77171-117-3. (La vie de viais. Montréal, Editions Trait d'Union, 2002, 175p. New revised paperback edition, "BQ" Series, 2008, 201p.)

Cover Life sidewaysThis is a collection of twelve short stories that all deal with the notion of happiness, but each in a different way and form. Among the themes that are analyzed: seduction, eroticism, homosexuality, heterosexuality, human behavior in the corporate world, social problems. Characters include a teacher and a student, a judge and welfare people, a bus driver, boss and workers, psychopaths and therapists.

Reviews' excerpts

-“The stories within the collection are polyphonic. That is to say, they bring together many voices and perspectives so as to create a dialogue around the topics that are raised. To this effect, the collection represents more of a discussion than a neatly wrapped narrative with a visible plot line and clear message. This idea also refers back to the ironic nature of the stories, which play on  our initial understanding of the plot and force readers to think twice before settling on the meaning of any given tale. Indeed, rather than tell us something, Life Sideways makes us reflect on the unpredictable quirkiness of life and those moments and people with which we can all identify, and hopefully, laugh at, too. While reading this collection, it is important not to forget the comical aspect of the stories that, while laden with meaning, have been crafted in such a way, so as to make the reader not only think, but also smirk or even chuckle. Playing on the irony of life, Brulotte’s collection represents Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical statement with respect to our existence whereby “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” While life is most certainly a serious affair as anyone can tell while reading this volume, one must not, however, get too wrapped up in its intellectual attributes to the point of ignoring its comical dimension. In other words, it is important to remember that more often than not, our fruitless efforts to master life are precisely and ultimately what constitute the source of its humour.
    Funny, thought provoking and witty, Life Sideways is most definitely a collection of short stories for the ages. While retaining a certain French-Canadian specificity when examined closely, the volume is comprised of a series of stories that are nothing less than universal in their content, scope and appeal. Having spent a great deal of his life living in the United States of America and in then Europe, Brulotte is an extremely well-travelled, knowledgeable, open-minded and talented writer who is sensitive to others, their particularities, and the reality that despite our differences, we are ultimately all (too) human. Despite being individuals, we are collectively subject to the human condition, complete with all its inherent peculiarities and imperfections. As such, it is important to see his stories translated into English and thus made available to a wider and more diverse audience.” Steven Urquhart, Foreword, Life Sideways. Victoria, BC: Ekstasies, 2015.

-"The form of these stories is somewhat exploded, fragmented, and each page shows a remarkable mastery of the genre and its codes. In short, as always in Brulotte's fiction, the collection is nicely wrapped with finesse, intelligence and inspiration. Most of all, it is spiced up with this corrosive, yet discreet, humor, a trademark of this great master of the genre." Stanley Péan, Le Libraire, Québec, No 18 (Spring 2003), 7.

-“This formula –life aideways- could be the motto to all short story writers of the world. Renown as a master of the genre, Gaëtan Brulotte gave in fact this title in 2002 to a collection of stories that has been reprinted in a revised version in the paperback series “Bibliothèque québécoise”. At the same time faithful to the spirit of the genre and surprising by their narrative audacity, the twelve short stories of Life Sideways stand out by their narrative intensity and the refined weirdness of their atmosphere. The writer knows how far he could go to destabilize the readers without losing them. A jewel of biting irony, “The Potipar’s Complex”, the last and the longest of the collection, brilliantly narrates the hazards of professional exchanges between unevenly developed countries. As all the other texts of this collection, this story demonstrates that Brulotte is not only telling stories, but that he also writes them in the strongest term possible.” Le Devoir  [Montréal], May 24, 2008.

-"Daily life is analyzed here with a very lively gift of observation, an incomparable sharpness, a humoristic finesse, and acid irony and sarcasm. (…) Are under attack unfairness, hypocrisy, stupidity, imposture, whatever the form they have. One must underline the completely personal art with which the short story writer hooks us and seduces us: his attention to details, his choice of the right words to reach his target, numerous effects of style, his apparently relaxed tone which is terribly efficient (….) His collection is a jewel. Please read it!" Gilles Dorion, Québec français 129 (Spring 2003): 9

-"Brulotte's characters have nothing simple about them, they are even highly complex, always in a state of questioning (..) the twelve short stories of Life Sideways form a whole of a great thematic, aesthetic and formal complexity. (…) Since The Secret Voice (…) Brulotte never ceased to explore new avenues to tell our world. (…) There are short stories which speak of love (…) in an often strange way, but that is always fascinating, and never "simple". (…) This is what we call the exactingness of the form." Michel Lord, "Rien n'est simple", Lettres québécoises, Montréal, 110 (Summer 2003), p. 27-28.

-"(…) Twelve unusual atmospheres, sometimes at the frontier of the Fantastic (…) Absolutely unpredictable (…) irresistibly funny (…) each has a its own personality in tone, style, structure (…) This exploitation of original structures, along with the admirable mastery of writing make the strength of Life Sideways. To be marked with a white stone." Hélène Rioux, XYZ, la Revue de la nouvelle No 73, Montréal (Spring 2003), 77-78.

-"Beach Hotel", a short text with a remarkable punch to it. (…) As a whole, "Potiphar's Complex" is a rather acute social critic, which is served by a continuous humor. (…) small pictures that are jewels in style, fill of finesse and nuances." Réginald Martel, La Presse, Montréal, Dec. 8, 2002, F-2.

-"Everything is scrutinized under his efficient and funny pen." Francine Fiore, Le Babillart, Feb. 24, 2003

-"A virtuoso," "eccentric lives," "in Kafka style," "a blown-up discourse"
Stanley Péan, - zone Culture.html, April 2003.

-"Brulotte has all what it takes for his stories to be perfect: a simple striking plot, characters full of energy, depictions that are rich in colors and details, authenticity. He possesses this spark of life which, when lit in his narratives, never gets extinguished. All his stories are lively. To read them means to share with the writer the emotion of rediscovering the world each time in a different way and the joy of reflecting on the human condition with lucidity and humor."  Margareta Guyrcsik, Gaëtan Brulotte ou la lucidité en partage. Montreal: Nota Bene, 2018 : 289.

"(…) Il s’agit de rester lucide et de garder une certaine distance vis-à-vis des idéologies et des idéaux qui peuvent aveugler l’être humain et faire de lui un être intransigeant et, en fin de compte, « bête ». Autrement dit, il ne faut pas perdre de vue le caractère imprévisible et souvent paradoxal de la vie dans la poursuite du progrès et d’un monde meilleur. C’est du moins un des messages qu’on peut dégager de La Vie de biais, ce recueil riche et polysémique où on constate que la complexité des nouvelles reflète celle du monde et que l’auteur, malgré ses voyages vers autrui, n’a cessé d’entretenir un dialogue avec l’héritage catholique de sa province natale (…). Steven Urquhart, « La vie de biais de Gaëtan Brulotte : la subversion de l’idéalisme et la déconstruction implicite du discours religieux ». Studies in Canadian Literature 41.2 (Winter 2016) : 198.

-"To conclude, the value of Brulotte’s works resides in the ability to diagnose issues: the author is an analyst of the human condition in its relationship to time. His merit is to have created characters who, in a variety of ways, are in conflict with this insurmountable situation and are defeated. Since it is impossible to escape from time, there remains only the tragic awareness of being embedded in time, the dramatic struggle between man and its state. This conflict is very well represented in Brulotte’s works. There is no way out that could resolve this problem because all are only human  As with Camus, the Immanence is tragic, and the world is fundamentally absurd because it is unfair in the face of the bloody statistics of death. Maybe, like Heidegger said in an interview to Der Spiegel ‘at this point only God can save us’, but for Brulotte’s characters this God has not revealed itself, and therefore they keep on the struggle." Antonio Rinaldis, "La cage invisible, " Philosopher 27 (2013) : 76.

-"Despite being engaged in an existential reflection, i.e. an analysis of life in all its facets (…) Brulotte maintains an ironic distance in Molière’s fashion with regards to ideologies by advocating a ‘gay science’ which is ambiguous and playful. (…) He rather prefers a postmodern and deconstructive vision which provides the possibility of embracing multiple realities and valorizing the relativity and unpredictability of things" Steven Urquhart, "La théâtralité dans La vie de biais de Gaëtan Brulotte" in René Audet et Philippe Mottet. Portrait d’une pratique vive. La nouvelle au Québec (1995-2010). Montréal : Éditions Nota bene, "Contemporanéités", 2013. 191.