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March 1, 2001 With love and longing, Anne Dandurand






Dandurand, evocative in two languages.

Dandurand, evocative in two languages.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Alyson Grant

For Concordia writer-in-residence Anne Dandurand, writing is the ultimate gesture of love.

“There’s a lot of solitude and you are condemned to poverty as a writer, but you do it for the love of someone you’ll never know — the reader,” Dandurand said at an interview in her cozy Concordia office.

Dandurand got hooked on the intimate relationship between reader and writer after the publication of her first book 20 years ago. She was waiting in line at a bank when a woman behind her told her that her book had put a ray of sun into her life.

“I almost fainted and I don’t know if I even thanked her, but suddenly, from there, writing to me was giving something to somebody else,” Dandurand said.

After that exchange, Dandurand gradually moved away from acting and journalism to become a full-time fiction writer. She has made good on her commitment to giving to readers with the publication of several celebrated novels and collections of short stories. Readers, in turn, have made Dandurand one of Quebec’s most loved and respected French-language authors.

Dandurand’s work-in-progress may take her out of her French world for a while, however. Like her hero, Franz Kafka, whose picture she keeps in her home office, she is now trying her hand at writing in another language.

“I think in English every Wednesday when I’m here, and even when I’m on my way here in the metro, so I took the opportunity to start writing in English,” she said. “It’s like being in a new universe, a new country that I’ve never seen.”

The work’s title is Radioscopy of a Few Sorrows, and it promises some of Dandurand’s familiar subjects: love and sexuality. But the writing is also highly experimental.

“I asked myself how can we now write a love story that is not sentimental but can show all the kinds of love that can be,” Dandurand said. “We see love everywhere in an imperialistic way between a man and a woman, but there can be love between men and between women, so I wanted a more universal way of looking at love.”

Her solution is to have the main character talking to an “S,” leaving gender ambiguous. “I’ll eventually translate it myself, but that kind of game is much harder to do in French,” Dandurand said.

English or French, Dandurand writes with passion. “I write for life, and I try to change, if only by a comma, the way society is,” she said. “I think that every good writer does that, tries to change power abuses. A good poem can change your political stance in life.”

Dandurand’s writing, if not overtly political, does draw attention to life’s less fortunate. Her characters are often the disaffected, the lonely, the suffering. “I’m more drawn to the forgotten, because there are so many, and we never hear from them,” she said.

In addition to characters on the page, Dandurand also brings characters to life through her work as a designer doll artist. She turns special Barbie-sized dolls into evocative and powerfully life-like creations.

“I do everything, change the hair, put on lashes, everything, and I make the costumes and the décor,” she said.

“When I do a makeover, it immediately gives a soul to the doll.”

One of those dolls sits smoking behind Dandurand’s computer on her desk and seems a third presence in the room. Like her writing, the dolls, with their amazing detail and strong personalities, are clearly a gesture of Dandurand’s love. They are also indication of her artistic power and experience.

Dandurand brings that experience to her work as writer-in-residence.

“For those students who want to meet me, I can be of some help. I’m not like their teacher, I am neutral,” she said. “Perhaps that makes me more harsh or more sweet, but I can bring them experience as a writer.”

Some titles by Anne Dandurand: La marquise ensanglantée, Deathly Delights (L’Assassin de l’intérieur/Diables d’espoir), The Waiting Room (La Salle d’attente), The Cracks (Un Coeur Qui Craque).