Writer: Carli Gardner
Glendon researchers engage in interdisciplinary projects to undertake deep reflections, leading them to interesting discoveries in different fields of study. In turn, Glendon researchers communicate their passions to enrich the academic environment of the College, and to encourage students to pursue their research interests both inside and outside the classroom.
Marie-Hélène Larochelle, a researcher and professor at Glendon, is also a writer. She combines her passion for French literature with literary creation in her first novel Daniil and Vanya published in English translation last fall. The translated novel has been acclaimed by the CBC, the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and other media outlets.
The theme of Larochelle’s Daniil and Vanya is violence in contemporary literature. The foundations of the professor’s scholarly studies — “the monstrosity in literature when it meets the banal, the evil in each of us” — are also taken up in the novel.
The magazine Châtelaine describes Daniil and Vanya as “an unflinching psychological horror story, both sinister and awe-inspiringly good.” According to the Toronto Star, it is rather a “thriller about family life that exists firmly on the dark side.” The novel tells the story of Emma and Gregory, a perfect Toronto couple who, before adopting twins, seem to have an idyllic life. For a brief summary of the novel, click here.
After a traumatic pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage, the couple decides to travel to Russia to adopt twin boys. However, as soon as they leave St. Petersburg, the young boys begin to illustrate perverse behaviour that becomes worrisome. A gulf widens between the new parents, alienating their friends and family. The two brothers show troubling signs of lack of empathy and leave a series of disturbing incidents in their wake. Rumours persist as the twins become teenagers — even as Emma continues to cling to her dream of the perfect family. A dark, violent and tense novel, Daniil and Vanya shows the bond between parent and child gone wrong (from Invisible Publishing).
Even though Dr. Larochelle uses her research skills to develop her book, the processes of scientific research and novel writing sometimes diverge. For example, before undertaking the writing, she adopted an innovative process: she created scrapbooks with sketches, diagrams, photos and even colour samples to compose the novel’s universe. The aim of these scrapbooks is to allow the author to find herself in “each of the characters […], not because they look like them, but because the process required them to appropriate their intimacy, their identity.” The creation of a novel therefore requires intensity and precision on the part of the novelist, which is akin to the rigours of scientific research Dr. Larochelle is responsible as an associate professor in the Glendon College Department of French Studies.
As a professor, Dr. Larochelle explores the possibilities in French Studies through her publication, which reinforces the quality not only of her novel, but also of her scholarly research. According to Professor Larochelle, writing fiction helps her to better “understand the inner workings of writing,” a subject she loves to teach. Dr. Larochelle’s ability to connect her research with her writing thus improves the quality of her teaching.
Glendon’s Office of Research and Innovation is proud to celebrate Marie-Hélène Larochelle’s diverse achievements in her various roles. Let us congratulate this multi-talented professor and applaud her for the publication of the English translation of her first novel, Daniil and Vanya. We look forward to reading Larochelle’s next new book Je suis le courant la vase (Leméac éditeur) which is due for publication on January 18, 2021!