My wife and I finished Robertson Davies’s What’s Bred in the Bone (starts off a little dull, but becomes quite absorbing) and decided to follow it up with another Canadian novel, this one translated from French: Nikolski, by Nicolas Dickner. We’re only 85 pages into it, but we’re already thoroughly intrigued: characters are introduced in slantwise fashion, there hasn’t been a predictable moment, and the prose (though translated) is actually livelier than Davies’s.
There are a lot of fish in this novel (one passage on page 79 begins “Starry ray, rainbow smelt, sturgeon, herring, sardine, sea trout, eel, cod, hake, threebearded rockling, John Dory, mullet, red goatfish, thicklip grey mullet, Atlantic bonito, swordfish, ocean perch, Norway redfish, American plaice, lumpsucker, dab, rock sole, Atlantic saury…”), and it taught me a nice piscine adjective a few pages before that: “A police car glides ahead of her with the quiet slowness of a shark. The driver turns his head in her direction, sunglasses covering his selachian gaze.” Merriam-Webster explains that the adjective refers to “any of a variously classified group (Selachii) of cartilaginous fishes that includes the existing sharks and typically most related elasmobranchs (as rays)” and is “ultimately from Greek selachos cartilaginous phosphorescent fish; akin to Greek selas brightness.” Don’t know when I’ll next get the chance to use it, but it’s now in my arsenal, ready for deployment.
Incidentally, I foolishly assumed that one of the locales, Tête-à-la-Baleine (“Whale’s Head”), was invented, but no, it and its companion, Providence Island, are real, and you can see pictures here. And if you’re curious, you can read the first chapter in French here (pdf; here‘s a Google cache).