For readers of World of Wonders and the poetry of Mary Oliver comes a joyful, tender memoir of encounters with animals and their potential to transform the life of one writer.
Two mismatched ducks quarrel amorously. A tortoise basks on a rock in the sun. Four deer ceremoniously visit a writer's garden to announce the arrival of a newborn fawn. In Archives of Joy, renowned poet, essayist, and novelist Jean-François Beauchemin turns his poetic and playful gaze to memories of animals he has known throughout his life, from fleeting encounters to deep relationships. With each meeting, Beauchemin returns to a simple thought: that joy in nature is an essential counterweight to the inescapable awareness of the brevity of life.
In short, humorous, and often dreamlike vignettes, Beauchemin meditates on the mysteries of existence, the alchemy of memory, and the entwinement of the animal world with our own – whether he's nursing an injured bird back to health, deciphering the gaze of a judgmental cat, or keeping company with a workhorse nearing its death.
His life as a writer and his beloved pet dogs and cats feature often, as do the creatures he encounters in his garden, at farms, or on woodland walks: sparrows, crows, deer, foxes, horses, and cows. Deeply restorative, imaginative, and dreamily poetic, Archives of Joy is a memoir that will stay with readers long after its final page.
Jean-Francois Beauchemin is a prolific French-Canadian author whose novels, poems, essays, and contemplations have earned great critical acclaim. His work has been called "one of the best-kept secrets" of Quebec literature. He has twice been shortlisted for the Governor General's Award.
"Jean-Francois Beauchemin looks back, around and into the mystic, to great effect. His brief and often breathtaking reflections on creatures he has encountered throughout his life meld into a salve for the troubled, weary or distracted mind and will appeal to fans of Brian Doyle, Ross Gay and Margaret Renkl. . . [A] small treasure." -Bookpage "I love this book! In a time when far too many people are estranged from nature, Archives of Joy will make you want to get outside and watch the animals you encounter wherever you are." -Marc Bekoff, PhD, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and Dogs Demystified "I was taken with this book from the first page to the last, but how to describe it? Not poetry, not essay, not memoir, but all of these merging like watercolors on wet paper. Jean-Francois Beauchemin calls this collection 'a bestiary of memory.' What an apt description! Critters, both wild and domestic, accompany him through his wanderings, and the past, even the time before his birth, shines its light on the path he is walking now. The writing is grounded in the real and earthy, yet the imaginative leaps dazzle and delight. A tortoise contemplates death, God makes an appearance to apologize for giving dogs such a short life, a rabbit takes comfort in tarot readings in his favor. He calls himself 'a man who is always moved and amazed by the brevity of everything.' You, reader, will be moved and amazed too." -Lorna Crozier, Governor General's Award-winning poet and author of Through the Garden: A Love Story (With Cats) and After That "Referring to the work as a 'bestiary of memory,' the author embraces his past as he reflects on moments he's spent with the other denizens of his world in observations on each interaction that move from the practical to the metaphysical . . . A lovely, meditative volume." -Booklist Praise for the French Edition "Reading Jean-Francois Beauchemin is an experience in itself. It is like an exercise in meditation; like pausing in front of a particular image, in a suspended moment. It is him in the image-as he projects himself-but it is ourselves that we see, or rather those aspects of our own lives which have escaped us." -Le Devoir "[Jean-Francois Beauchemin] is an author known for his writings about life, full of deep and heartfelt reflection. He opens the door wide to allow us into the core of his being. He is the kind of person you meet and with whom, after the first sentence, and without quite knowing why, you are talking earnestly about the meaning of life." -Le Passe Mot