Science Fiction Book Launched by Trent Professor
Dr. Sylvie Berard's La Saga d'Illyge explores ideas of sexual identity in nature vs. nurture
Is there anything better than a good dose of science fiction reading to keep the reality of day-to-day living at bay? More interestingly is when science fiction reflects reality in a way that we can all identify with but remain distant enough from to provide us with the perfect escape.
Dr. Sylvie Bérard, professor of Québec Literature at Trent University, launched her new book on Tuesday, October 18, 2011. La Saga d’Illyge is described as an intense novel, with captivating characters. Using multiple narrative voices, Professor Bérard explores concepts of sexual identity and how it varies based on nature versus nurture: the sexual persuasion we are born with, the one we prefer and the one we aspire to.
The story revolves around a territory split in two and the people who live there. On the one side, there is Saga, a protected city, abandoned by the political powers that be but still teeming with life and activity. There we meet Illyge, an underground artist whose work circles around and vacillates between high art and erotica. Her controversial work is well known throughout the area but she, like all other citizens of Saga, lives with heavy control on her movements, unable to even leave the city without permission. On the other side, there are the ‘Périphes’, vast expanses of land that surround the city, ascetic and fake, yet where very real people live. There lives Idrisse who, following tragic events will be chased out of the area towards Saga. Other fascinating characters bring more depth and surprising effects to Illyge and Idrisse.
Prof. Bérard is not new to publishing, having published several short stories and novels plus translations, essays and other scholarly work. In addition, she is the recipient of several prizes including the Aurora award for best new francophone Canadian science fiction, in 2003 and the Prix des lecteurs (Readers’ Award) de Radio-Canada, 2004.
Hired at Trent University in 2002 as a specialist of Québec literature and culture for the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, Prof. Bérard teaches courses on Québec Literature, Civilization and Montréal. “In a university the size and structure of Trent, a professor really feels she can make a difference for her students when she gets to know them through their whole program,” said Prof. Bérard.
Her current topics of research include contemporary Québec literature and women's science fiction. She is also a member of the research group "Les scénarios d'organisation socio-politique et économique des sociétés post-écologiques: analyse des propositions issues de la science-fiction" studying science fiction as a tool for social prospective.
“I like the balance that being a writer who is also a professor who is also a scholar provides me, and how every side of my work on and around literature questions and responds to the other aspects,” said Prof. Bérard. “After all this time, I am still in love with the campus, which is quite something to say as an urban person who could not paddle for her life!”