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Write On Ottawa: The Music Game by Stéfanie Clermont

By Emmanuelle Gingras on February 15, 2022


Content warning: self-harm.

About five years ago, Le Salon du Livre de l’Outaouais organized a reading with a bunch of French-Canadian authors, one of them being Stéfanie Clermont. I remember carefully listening to the Franco-Ontarian author shyly read an excerpt of her first book, Le jeu de la musique.

I also remember promising myself that I would read the whole short-story novel, not just buy it, adding it to all the false promises in my personal library. It remained on my list until I started writing for Apt613. It took a translated version of the book and five years of missing out before I read Stéfanie’s audacious, honest, and liberating masterpiece.

How many of these promises are we incapable of achieving as we grow in a rapidly-changing world? The Music Game sends us on a journey through this contemporary reality. It enumerates all the ways that we love and destroy one another through five parts and about 30 short stories.

We specifically orbit around Céline, Julie, and Sabrina, three friends trapped in their 21st century day-to-day little deaths. For some of them, it’s Ottawa; for others, it’s abusive relationships. There is one literal death: the suicide of one of their best friends, which leaves a permanent mark on their lives.

Each character in the book tries to capture their essence and find consistency, which always seems unattainable. They pretty much all cross paths, and leave their mark on each other, whether on a loving or traumatic level. In fact, there seems to be no difference between these two levels, as Stéfanie’s detached and fascinating writing traps the reader in a trauma victim’s point of view. Isn’t there always something worse than the abuse done to us?

For the writer, there only seem to be two solutions: boiling showers and escape.

The Music Game is about relationships, yet also about all the ways we desperately try to escape reality. I’m not trying to act as a psychotherapist here, but I can guarantee that anyone who’s ever experienced depression or anxiety will find healing through Stéfanie’s loyal and beautiful ways of describing the inexplicable. She allows for contradiction; depth and lightness meet in a disturbing but cathartic way.

Between the heavy stories, Stéfanie digs for hope. Her shortest stories are related to childhood, as there is not a lot of place for innocence in this world. She’s fascinated by the naive nature of children, for they wholeheartedly trust the world around them; they haven’t yet understood that they should always be a little afraid of the things they love the most.

Stéfanie better publish another book soon. This time, it will be at the top of my list to escape into her world and heal, once again.