I am presently listening to an audiobook as read by Adam Kenneth Wilson called Tatouine by Quebec author Jean-Christophe Réhel. Now imagine The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry with tons of Star Wars references thrown in with pop culture references sprinkled throughout the narrative. Jean-Christophe Réhel paints a lonely bland life of a solitary figure in a world not far-fetched as you might think.
Quebec is not so different from the rest of the small towns throughout North America. You might at first get a little lost in the unique references to Quebec culture but as you go further into this bleak tale of an unnamed cystic fibrosis narrator, it becomes quite clear that this guy could be anybody in a small town who had aspirations to be somebody but became a nobody in his mind. His only way out is through his imagination.
The story makes you feel sorry for this individual who wallows in self-pity but at the same time, he envelops himself in a security blanket of youthful escapism that you forget his hopeless situation. You can help yourself to laugh with him in his sad sack situation.
Jean-Christophe Réhel’s narrative is a poetic narrative that I have never come across in a long time. How can a miserable story of a big-time time loser charm his way into your heart? Tatouine is Jean-Christophe Réhel’s first novel. He also published some poems just like the character in his novel. I wonder how much of the character is based on his life.
As audiobooks go, Adam Kenneth Wilson readsTatouine in a French stereotypical fashion that adds to the humor of this dark comedy. The Canadian actor enhances the whole story to a new level and peels it away like an onion that makes you cry at the same time as you laugh.
As you might have guessed by now that Tatouine is French for Tatooine. The desolate planet in Star Wars where young Luke Skywalker wants to escape from. It is funny that our narrator would want to go from one hostile environment to another one in a galaxy far far far away. I would think Tatooine would be the last planet in any universe where an individual with cystic fibrosis would want to live on. And in there lies the beauty of this charming book. This one book should be made into a movie. I don’t know if Disney would approve.
It’s a long way from a basement apartment in a Montréal suburb to a new life on a fictional planet, but that’s the destination our unnamed narrator has set his sights on, bringing readers with him on an off-beat and often a hilarious journey.
Along the way, he writes poems, buys groceries at the dollar store and earns minimum wage at a dead-end supermarket job. In between treatments for his cystic fibrosis and the constant drip-drip-drip of disappointment, he dreams of a new life on Tatouine, where he’ll play Super Mario Bros and make sand angels all day. But in the meantime, he’ll have to make do with daydreams of a better life.
My bed takes on the shape of my body. When I walk, I take on the shape of the sidewalk. When I speak, I take on the shape of all the garbage I spout. I run through my list of meds. There are so many, all of them keeping me alive. Good job, meds. But today I’ve run out of some. I call the lab at the drugstore. The pharmacist knows me well. She always opens with, “What can I do for you, love?” I reel off my list like it’s a grocery order. Colistin bananas, Advair Diskus with lettuce, and a syringe loaf. Yes, thank you, that’s very kind. I go up to the kitchen. It doesn’t look like Norm is home. I peer out the window, take a look to see if there are any birds around, and think of Return of the Jedi. I go read up about Jedi Knights online. There are all kinds of books and parallel stories set before, during, and after the movies. I explore the hundreds and hundreds of made-up planets, species, spaceships, weapons, and types of food. I’d like to eat Lamta. I could be brushing up on socialism in postwar Germany or reading the philosophical works of Kierkegaard, but instead, I’d rather know that the Jedi High Council sits on the planet Coruscant. I make myself two slices of toast with Norm’s Cheez Whiz. I don’t think of his teeth. I promise myself I’ll go buy some groceries and drop by the pharmacy. I have another look for birds. There’s got to be at least one.