Fear the Mirror by Cora Siré  – Véhicule Press, 2021, 240 pages

 

I will say it outright: Fear the Mirror, Cora Siré’s newly minted collection of linked short stories, is the most emotionally satisfying book that I have read in a long time. The author takes readers through the aftermath of wars in Europe, evoking places where history seems to be repeating itself and commiserating with people whose lives have been upended by the winds of change.

Cora Siré describes the travails of people, some of them her relatives, forced to flee to the Americas at short notice, but who somehow manage to make a rooted life for themselves in a new environment. She paints a nostalgic picture of a Montréal that was both innocent and deserving of its moniker of “sin city.” She takes us to the imposing Andean Cordilleras and gives us a hint as to why the word gaucho is a symbol of audacity and nobility. The author does all this with a deft pen, while dripping tidbits of local lore, history and humour. Along the way, she allows us a candid peek into her life and heart.

Readers will become acquainted with a grave-digger whose clients are buried under the cover of night; a gringa whose trysts with a Latin lover are really trysts with exotica; a mother who flirts with a young  Russian sailor who had caught the eye of her Canadian teenage daughter; a German poet who highjacks a homage to another German poet’s work in order to showcase his own; the inhabitants of a bucolic Vermont village who are as much prisoners as the prisoners they guard in the nearby penitentiary; a female author who winds up tricking the two writers who are trying to trick her into bed. Long-lost relatives, old friends and new lovers are the protagonists of this complex narrative which is held together by an omniscient voice who turns out to belong to Corita, aka Cora.

Critics fond of using labels are at a loss as to which genre this collection belongs. They can call it a memoir distorted by time, an autobiography under the cloak of fiction, or just creative writing. I will simply call it life sublimated into art.

 

More about the author:

Cora Siré is an author, poet and essayist whose work has been published in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Her novel Behold Things Beautiful was a finalist for the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Fiction Prize for 2017.

 

 

 

Goethe’s Colour Wheel via Wikimedia Commons

 

Razzle-Dazzle Ghazal (Goethe on Steroids)

If we pass from a dark place to one illumined
by the sun we are dazzled.

Prisoners long confined in darkness acquire
so great a susceptibility of the retina.

Goethe looked into an open coal shed. The large
red image floated. With snow a total dazzling.

He called on the artist: solve the mystery of imitation
select the example of an open book to present a greater diversity.

The greatest brightness short of dazzling acts
near the greatest darkness. Dazzle. Dazzled. Dazzling.

 

After Theory of Colours by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1810), translated from the German by Charles Lock Eastlake

 

Ghosts of Mercy

Their stage is the river of cold
collision. Steam rises off ice floes.
Nights, armed and loaded
with my flashlight, I stand
on a shoreline of glistening rocks.
My beacon beams as I pan the waters
to let them know I’m here, careful to disguise
distress, my shivering. The sliver of moon
floats detached. I too hide my fears.
A goading as my breath clouds the frigid air
my tears crystallize until the ghosts of mercy
emerge in pairs. The hustlers flit across the floes
to chase transgression, tussle demons in a private show.

 

 

After Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Red on Red), 1969
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Peace Pavilion