The other side of the frosted side of Catherine Éthier
With An Extraordinary Woman, comedian and columnist Catherine Éthier signs a hard, funny and screaming first novel truth about the pain of living.
The loyal readership of Métro revels in the unique and colorful pen of Catherine Éthier, who has been working there as a columnist since 2015.< /p>
It was precisely in 2015 that the one who can be heard regularly at ICI Première signed her publishing contract for this novel which will be published… in 2022!
“I gently pushed him away for almost six years!” summarizes with a burst of laughter the one who, during this period, saw her public career take off, in particular thanks to her participation in the shows Code F and Bonsoir bonsoir!
At the start of the pandemic, she received a call: “Your editor has had time to have two children since you signed your contract, do you think you would be ready now?” she says, adding that we were very understanding of her.
It was now or never to dive into writing. The wait will have been worth it, because what Catherine Éthier has experienced in recent years has been her driving force behind creation.
Behind the bliss
The saying goes that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. We can make an exception to the rule here, since the wonderful illustration produced by Char Bataille could not be more representative of the story of An extraordinary woman.
The title of the novel also refers to this expression often used to describe Catherine Éthier as well as her protagonist, Corinne Gazaille, her autofictional alter ego.
“At her contact, we laughed or, for sure , was about-to-. It was consumed like a natural wine, a divine nectar, a burrata whose portrait would be exhibited in the Louvre (or in the summer chalet of Élise Guilbault). But what wit she had, that girl! That she was special,” writes Catherine Éthier.
But behind her happiness, her touch of madness and her refreshing personality, Corinne hides great suffering.
A suffering that we do not allow ourselves to name publicly, deplores the author, who was inspired by the now famous passage of Hubert Lenoir at Everyone talks about it in 2018, where he confided that he sometimes wanted to “cress himself on fire”.
A passage of the novel alludes to this event which had aroused strong reactions at the time. “It was the spark plug that really made me want to write about death and suicidal ideation,” she says bluntly.
Call a spade a spade
Catherine Éthier refuses to water down her remarks and insists on calling a spade a spade. “We never call it suicidal thoughts, we say “dark thoughts”, otherwise it’s very scary! It looks prettier! We must not talk about it, it will be fine, no, it will be better! she quips.
With An Extraordinary Woman, she wanted to talk about her own bad life, but also about the generalized one she is witnessing. “The rare times someone puts the right words on suffering, we sweep it away right away because we are not ready to hear it. We live in an era where we talk about mental health, we cause for the cause, but we don't really want to talk about it, ”she laments.
Without revealing the turn of the story, we can however mention that death hovers over the whole of Catherine Éthier's novel, which opens with the funeral of the grandfather of its protagonist. Corinne Gazaille has only one objective throughout the pages: not to die. A difficult task when “surviving the next minute” seems insurmountable.
In an interview, the author admits to being worried that her unfiltered writing is perceived as a celebration of death. But that is not the case at all. “I wanted to allow myself and people to put specific words on it. Obviously suicide is not a good idea, it's not a good thing.”
It's a shame to go wrong, but it's okay. Above all, you're not alone in having ideas that upset you and that you don't know which end to take.
If the readers of An extraordinary womanhad to remember only one thing, according to her, and that is that they are not alone. “A lot of people are affected by these thoughts and do not feel entitled to formulate them. There is help and specialists, but we must not simply evade the question by saying that we are going to buy a cornet and that it will be better. I want to burst this abscess.
Funnée funnée despite everything
Despite the seriousness of its subject, we laugh out loud several times when reading this novel. Catherine Éthier, who is also a humorist, has a knack for describing bizarre situations – such as an improbable stay on a luxury cruise ship in Asia or an appointment with an “insolvency counsellor, creator of freedom” – in a completely derisory way.
An example: “My face was to serenity and at rest what Mad Dog Vachon's face was to beauty sleep after a seven-fight hours with three tigers and a pocket of puffballs.”
The author did not try to lighten her point. So it's just her “funky fun Disney World” way of looking at life that has guided her writing, she says.
“I have a personality that needs to make people laugh. Everything is so out of character. For me, the only way to look at things is through laughter and satire.”
Not so glamorous, celebrity
Like its protagonist, Catherine Éthier admits having had to adapt to the recognition that comes with a career lived in the public eye.
“Sometimes people say to me: “Ah my God, thank you for existing, you are extraordinary!” when it's been three days since I've been on my sofa and I haven't taken my shower”, she illustrates to remind us of the gap that exists between appearances and real life.
Always for the sake of truth, she does not hesitate to scratch the environment in which she evolves, where we blindly praise the stars and where we flee depth like the plague. She also describes Corinne Gazaille as a “C” on the stardom scale.
“It's as if we were meat, it's unhealthy,” she said. Someone can have a lot of talent, but if it's not an “A” personality, we don't hire them.”
Need help? Call the Quebec Suicide Prevention Line free of charge at 1-866-APPELLE, available 24 hours a day.
< em>An extraordinary woman
In bookstores April 6 at Stanké editions