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Trent Professor's Science Fiction Novel Named as One of Six Finalists in Au Prix des Lecteurs Radio-Canada

Sylvie BerardFor a book she wasn't planning to write, Terres des Autres (Land of the Others) has provided Sylvie Bérard, a professor in Trent's Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, with many pleasant surprises. The most recent of these was on February 17 when the book was named as one of six finalists in Au Prix des Lecteurs Radio-Canada.

In its sixth edition, Au Prix des Lecteurs Radio-Canada provides an opportunity for readers to sit on a jury and vote for their favourite book from a list of pre-selected works. The jury is selected by Radio-Canada and, this year, is led by well-known playwright, Jean-Marc Dalpé. The winner will be announced on May 6 at the Salon du Livre du Grand Sudbury.

Professor Bérard's novel, which she describes as "a cowboy and Indians story set in an outlandish desert", was written as she conducted a SSHRC-funded research project about space and territory in Québécois women's literature and while she prepared an honours course on space in the contemporary Quebec novel. Terre des Autres is about the confrontation of two civilizations – one human and the other reptilian, living on the planet Sielxth. Each chapter describes an encounter between individual "specimens" of these two species in the no man's land between the human's spaceship and the rest of the reptilian civilization.

"It is a very harsh story that involves meanness, narrow-mindedness, violence against other species, and slavery – from both sides," explains Professor Bérard. "But it also tells about unique contacts... special moments. And I hope it contains hope for a better future."

Terre des Autres is the only science-fiction book among the six finalists. In fact, there are no two books alike in the final list. La vie, sens unique is a psychological narrative by Jean-François Somain; Lise Bédard's Wilfrid... la qu ête de l'impossible and Jean Mohsen Fahmy's L'agonie des dieux are both historical novels, but the former is set in early 20th Century Canada whereas the latter is set in the Roman Empire; L'homme aux yeux de loup by Gilles Dubois is a contemporary story where the characters travel from the Great North to Iraq; and Obsessions by Aurélie Resch is a short story collection.

"I wonder how the jury will be able to make a choice!" exclaims Professor Bérard.

Terre des Autres is Professor Bérard's first independent novel, though she co-authored Elle meurt a la fin with Brigitte Caron in 1994 and she has been writing short stories for over 15 years. In addition to being named a finalist in this prestigious competition, Professor Bérard was also awarded the Grand Prix de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois in 2005 for Terre des Autres and the book will soon be translated into English by EDGE books.

No matter what the outcome on May 6, Professor Bérard is pleased with the nomination and is hoping that it will entice more readers and fans, both French and English, to explore her work. After the competition is over and the winner has been announced, Professor Bérard will continue her life as a Professor of Modern Language and Literature, she will continue to publish short stories in magazines, and she will start to explore new writing projects, including, perhaps, a new science-fiction novel, because writing is what she loves.

"I like to write both because I like to tell stories and because I enjoy playing with words," says Professor Bérard. "And maybe because writing allows me to be somebody else for the duration of a fiction."

To learn more about Terre des Autres and Au Prix des Lecteurs Radio-Canada, visit Radio-Canada's web site at The website also showcases short clips of Professor Bérard and the six other finalists reading from their books.

Posted March 21, 2006





























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