Life in the Court of Matane (2021)

Eric Dupont’s books are among the first in a wave of new Quebec literature: La Presse has called him “one of the province’s most daring and original writers,” while Voir maintains that just two books were enough to make his work “essential reading for anyone interested in new Quebec literature.” On the back of Dupont’s success with Canadian bestseller and Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Songs for the Cold of Heart, QC Fiction is proud to publish this special second edition of our very first book, now featuring a foreword by Heather O’Neill.

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Beautifully written
Local myths and anecdotes mix with world events

Written by Eric Dupont
Translated by Peter McCambridge
280 pages • 9781771862264• 8″ x 5″
First published (2016) as 9781771860765
FICTION / Literary
Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Nadia Comaneci’s gold-medal performance at the Olympic Games in Montreal is the starting point for a whole new generation. Eric Dupont watches the performance on TV, mesmerized. The son of a police officer (Henry VIII) and a professional cook—as he likes to remind us—he grows up in the depths of the Quebec countryside with a new address for almost every birthday and little but memories of his mother to hang onto. His parents have divorced, and the novel’s narrator relates his childhood, comparing it to a family gymnastics performance worthy of Nadia herself.

Life in the court of Matane is unforgiving, and we explore different facets of it (dreams of sovereignty, schoolyard bullying, imagined missions to Russia, poems by Baudelaire), each based around an encounter with a different animal, until the narrator befriends a great horned owl, summons up the courage to let go of the upper bar forever, and makes his glorious escape.




“If the Americans have John Irving and the Colombians Gabriel García Márquez, we have Eric Dupont. And he’s every bit as good as them.” (Voir)


“This novel from Dupont … the first from a new fiction imprint dedicated to publishing ‘the very best of a new generation of Quebec storytellers in flawless English translation,’ lives up to that ambition. … By turns poignant, playful, and nostalgic, the book evokes ’70s Quebec with the quirky but successful device of combining an autobiographical family story with motifs drawn from fable, history, politics and myth. … Translator McCambridge beautifully captures the joyous top notes and the darker undercurrents of this fascinating voice.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Dupont is a writer of such intelligence and skill that he is able to not only become a philosopher, but a poet, who not only understands the horrors of a dysfunctional childhood, but also knows what is beautiful about it. And this book is a testament to his unwavering generosity towards both his characters and the people of Quebec.” (Heather O’Neill, author)

Wildly imaginative … a remarkably sensitive and intelligent coming-of-age story told with an irresistible blend of heartache, humour and magic.” (Numéro Cinq)

“A beautiful, tragicomic coming-of-age story … This translation is knocking my socks off.” (Bronwyn Averett, Book Riot)

“With an excellent translation by McCambridge, one which reads smoothly and keeps the humour which undoubtedly pervades the original, Dupont’s novel makes for an entertaining look at a Québécois childhood. … It all makes for an impressive start for QC Fiction.” (Tony’s Reading List)

“a captivating voice that sharply trapezes between a heightened version of his parents’ divorce and life in the countryside … Eric’s insights brim with intelligence.” (Foreword Reviews)

“Tangential, expansive in its ability to capture youth at a crossroads, and unexpectedly piercing … an inventive novel” (Foreword Reviews)

“QC Fiction has done a great service to English readers everywhere by translating this popular Quebec novel for us.” (The Miramichi Reader)

“an irreverent cocktail … a feast of a novel, calorie-filled and decadent” (Québec Reads)

“At the time, it seemed all of Quebec was trying to stay aloft between many sets of uneven bars. There was the feud between the sovereigntists and the federalists keeping society off-balance … The conservative traditionalism of the Duplessis era was disappearing in favour of the more progressive values of the Quiet Revolution. Religious faith was dissipating in Quebec homes, yet children were still being taught by nuns in Catholic schools. Comaneci’s gymnastics set the scene for an exploration of all these faultlines in Dupont’s autobiographical novel, Life in the Court of Matane. … For the informed, and for those prepared to laugh at Quebec’s peccadilloes, this is a hilarious romp.” (Quill & Quire)

“a classic coming-of-age novel worth pondering over” (Steven Buechler, The Library of Pacific Tranquility)

“a highly original read” (PRISM magazine)

“Dupont’s gift is that his stories have never been told in such a way before, could only ever be told in that way, and will never again be told like that.” (Buried in Print)


“spectacular… original in every sense” (Literary Review of Canada)

“masterful… heartbreaking and hilarious” (Publishers Weekly)

“highly recommended” (Library Journal)

“fiercely readable” (Toronto Star)

“This book manages to capture the cultural zeitgeist of Quebec culture in the twentieth century. It reminded me of all the great French Canadian novels I read as a child, but pushed them to new, delightful, hilarious, epic levels. […] I dare you not to read the first three pages and fall in love.” (Heather O’Neill, jury member, 2018 Giller Prize)

As magnificent a work of irony and magic as the boldest works of Gabriel García Márquez, but with a wholly original sensibility that captures the marvellous obsessions of the Québécois zeitgeist of the 20th century. It is, without a doubt, a tour de force. And the translation is as exquisite as a snowflake.” (Giller Prize jury)


“And she said unto all of them, ‘I will return like a thief in the night.’ Much time will pass, but I will come back for you. You will live apart from me for a long time, but one day, like the whale that returns to the St. Lawrence every summer, you will recognize me among them all. And one of her disciples said unto her, ‘Teach us to laugh like you laugh.’ And she did say: ‘Laughter will come in its own time. No one will have to teach it to you. The fledgling separated from its parents grows up and learns to sing by itself. Song comes to it instinctively.'” (The Guardian on building castles in the sand.)

“The king drank only on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Labour Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, for the entirety of the local shrimp festival, on Workers’ Day, Thanksgiving, the Immaculate Conception, the feast of St. Blaise, at baptisms, weddings, funerals, while nodding off, filing his tax return, watching television on a Sunday evening, talking on the telephone with his brothers, learning to navigate a boat, at sunset, when visitors came, when visitors left, on election night in front of the television, on winter days when he stayed home because he wasn’t working, during construction work, at family suppers, at police get-togethers, and during the summer holidays. Otherwise, Henry VIII never touched a drop.” (Québec Reads on why baking bread is exhausting.)

“Even today, every time I drive along Route 132 east of Rivière-du-Loup, I fall into a kind of trance. Something about it upsets me. Despite the picture-postcard scenery, despite the lovely people and the smell of the sea, something presses down on my lungs, reminding me that I’m moving away from where I belong. I watch in the rear-view mirror as Rivière-du-Loup slowly recedes into the distance. It’s usually at times like this that I feel my little earthquakes.” (Numéro Cinq on the new rules of memory)

“The whale soon started to smell and rotted slowly on the shore. We went back every day only to discover that the birds had torn away a little more flesh from its immense, cold body. It putrefied more quickly, and its ribs appeared. Two long white ribs could be seen clearly from the road, pointing skyward.” (Asymptote on memory chasing its own tail.)

“Things began to heat up at school. Jimmy and his gang of mercenaries had taken over the schoolyard.” (Trouble at the henhouse in Geist magazine and at

Photo credit: Justine Latour


Eric Dupont was born in Amqui, Quebec, in 1970. He left his native Gaspé Peninsula at age 16 for Austria and other faraway locales, returning to Quebec in 2003 to accept a position as a lecturer in translation at the McGill University School of Continuing Studies. His fourth novel, La Fiancée américaine, released in 2012, won the Prix des libraires du Québec and the Prix littéraire des collégiens. Its English translation by Peter McCambridge, Songs for the Cold of Heart, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2018 and subsequently published by HarperVia, outside of Canada, under the title The American Fiancée. One of the hallmarks of Eric’s writing is the juxtaposition of the supernatural and real worlds. The lighthearted tone of his work often belies undercurrents of deeper themes and meanings.


Originally from Ireland, Peter McCambridge holds a BA in modern languages from Cambridge University, England, and has lived in Quebec City since 2003. He runs Québec Reads and now QC Fiction. Life in the Court of Matane was the first novel he chose for this collection and the book that made him want to become a literary translator in the first place. His translation of the first chapter won the 2012 John Dryden Translation Prize. His translations have been World Literature Today Notable Translations, longlisted for Canada Reads, and finalists for the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Translation.


✓ One of Quebec’s most daring and original writers in translation

✓ A new voice and a bestselling Canadian author, now published internationally by HarperCollins and QC Fiction