April 1 –April 30, 2024

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About Tatouine

It’s a long way from a basement apartment in a Montreal suburb to a new life on a fictional planet, but that’s the destination our unnamed narrator in Tatouine has set his sights on, bringing readers with him on an off-beat and often hilarious journey.

 

Along the way, he writes poems, buys groceries at the dollar store, and earns minimum wage at a dead-end supermarket job. In between treatments for his cystic fibrosis and the constant drip-drip-drip of disappointment, he dreams of a new life on Tatouine, where he’ll play Super Mario Bros and make sand angels all day. But in the meantime, he’ll have to make do with daydreams of a better life, in which he is John McClane, he is the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi (with a bacteria he’s never heard of), he is Justin Timberlake… Meryl Streep… a grumpy George Clooney…

Tatouine Book Cover in iPad

Star Wars in Repentigny

Repentigny is a suburb of Montreal where most of Tatouine takes place.  A theme in Tatouine is how the narrator reimagines his environment and his relationships through the prism of science fiction, as if the spirit of George Lucas has slowly taken hold of Repentigny.  Jean-Christophe Réhel says:

 “The most direct link to lung disease is Darth Vader and his relationship to breathing. To dedicate a story to a Star Wars fan character who has cystic fibrosis, I just dove into it, and I had fun writing.” (Urbania interview, Jeremy Hervieux)

Tatouine isn’t a book about Réhel, though he understands the association happens naturally: “because the narrator has cystic fibrosis and so do I. But otherwise, it’s fiction. I didn’t experience what he did: I’ve never been to New York, I’ve never lived in an old guy’s semi-basement…… I’ve never done the jobs described in the book, etc.” (Urbania interview, Jeremy Hervieux)

Tatouine is distinguished in its style: in addition to being touching from one end to the other, it is often very funny. This humor is found throughout at the Super C, a family Christmas party In New York, playing Santa’s elf: “I often laugh at myself. I think it brings me back to Earth, and it allows me to listen better during the serious moments, the moments when I put things in perspective. In the novel, I had no choice but to inject this madness of imagination there, because otherwise it would have been unbearable.”

This is precisely what infuses so much in Réhel’s work: imagination as a lifeline to the blandness of everyday life.  “To write, for me, is to try to synthesize everyday life…to make it something wonderful.”