QC Fiction could never be labelled as predictable. It has published divergent kinds of contemporary French fiction titles which it carefully translates into English to gain a wider audience. Witness what happened recently with Eric Dupont’s Songs for the Cold of Heart: a prestigious Giller nomination that made the publishing world take notice that there is a virtually untapped market for translations. Now QC Fiction has released a translation of the play L’Art de la chute, a performance of which QC Fiction Editor Peter McCambridge saw (or experienced, would be a better descriptor) recently in Quebec City.
“To be honest, we didn’t set out to publish a play. Until, that is, I saw a performance of L’Art de la chute near my home in Quebec City. I laughed. I had a lump in my throat at the end. I left with a much firmer understanding of CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations). I kept telling my friends about it, until I realized that we should translate it and share it with our readers around the world.”
The mention of CDOs might make you question what this play is about. It is about contemporary art and the world of finance and how the value (or selling price) of a piece of art determines the worth of the artist. If his or her works sell high at auctions, they remain relevant, but if they sell low, then the artist has fallen out of favour with investors, and by extension, the art world. Volatile, to say the least.
The Art of the Fall* is centred around two women, Alice, a Quebec artist that hasn’t produced anything inspired lately and her friend Laurence, who works for Lehman Brothers, a British bank that is about to go bankrupt in 2008. Alice is in England on an art residency when the bank falls, but that evening she and Laurence have tickets to an art auction where they meet Greg, an art collector whose company has just made a ton of money by speculating in the market, which indirectly led to the failure of Lehman Brothers. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the ins and outs of Big Finance; the cast members will explain it to you. (“Oh and the debt bonds? Honestly, don’t worry about those. Just remember: there’s always money to be made even when everyone around you is going broke” the Shoe Polisher tells the audience). This is an effective theatrical device (breaking the fourth wall) used to help the audience understand what eventually befalls Alice and Greg as she along with Laurence as her advisor, achieves notoriety in the contemporary art world then eventually comes “the fall.”
I wasn’t sure at first if I would enjoy reading a play, but I soon got into the essence of the story and was swept along from Quebec to London to New York, learning about the volatile world of finance and the contemporary art world. The Art of the Fall is the inspired creation of eight individuals who wrote, produced and acted in its first performance in 2018. The translator, Danielle Le Saux-Farmer was one of the creators, and so was well-placed to translate it into English.
I can envision The Art of the Fall being easily staged in small theatres, even high schools (although there are quite a few F-bombs). The dialogues are brief and realistic (no monologues!) and the relationship between Alice and Greg (which echoes the relationship between art and finance) is intense, tempestuous and all-too-brief. Entertaining and informative, The Art of the Fall is well worth a read. Incidentally, while all of QC Fiction’s covers are of a similar design (by Maison 1608 by Solisco), The Art of the Fall’s is the best-looking one thus far, in my opinion.
*This review was based on an Advance Reading Copy supplied by QC Fiction. The Art of the Fall will be released on March 15, 2020. You may pre-order from Amazon.ca using the link below. (Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2RranOi Thanks!)