In 2014, I published a novel about a perfumer-herbalist (The Lake). After that book, six or seven years ago, I wanted to create a sort of herbarium describing my favourite flowers and scents. I spoke to some friends about it, then put the idea away in a little corner of my head and wrote Gens du Nord. In 2018, I left Montreal for the Gaspé peninsula: Gespeg ('the end of the land'), our Quebec Finistère. This new life a thousand kilometres from my home town, between the sea and the forest, deepened my sensitivity and changed my relationship with nature forever. I revived the idea of a herbarium two years ago and reworked it to give the project an original direction. I wanted to make a special, intimate book that would present my everyday allies in an oblique way. The anthology Collected Poems by the Irish author William Butler Yeats published by Macmillan was one of my sources of inspiration for the visual aspect of this project. I envisioned a hardback cover with gilding, heat-gilded edges, a sewn bookmark, beautiful paper and a modern design. I spoke to Geneviève Godbout, a wonderful illustrator who is also my friend, and she immediately accepted the challenge I set her: to respond to each of my texts with an illustration. The result, two years later, is Petite Nature: one hundred and ninety-two pages and twenty-three illustrations.
A memoir, portraits and a self-portrait, a grimoire, an intimate and deliberately disorganised abecedary, Petite Nature presents and showcases what I call my "everyday allies". These allies, illustrated by Geneviève, are places (or even an era), plants (flowers, trees, herbs, weeds), gemstones, artistic practices, animals, an attitude, powerful watercourses. They calm my little nature and keep me on the shore.
Geneviève and I made this book with our own money, without any subsidy (we didn't have time to apply for one), and with the artistic help of the guys at Criterium in Quebec City for the graphic design, which was inspired by my living environment in the Gaspésie. The production cost per copy is insane, and the selling price has been set accordingly. The deluxe off-the-shelf edition is limited to two hundred numbered and signed copies. Each copy includes twenty-three illustrations printed in Quebec City at the VU production workshops on Hahnemühle rice paper and glued by hand (yes, we're going to glue four-thousand-six-hundred illustrations by hand).
The manuscript never got into circulation (we couldn't ask a publisher to go for this kind of publication). There may one day be a regular edition of Petite Nature, with or without the illustrations, but first I wanted to make with Geneviève the book that I dreamed of, that she and I dreamed of as friends. We completed the project in total artistic harmony, without ever interfering in each other's work, and I think that friendship, artistic alignment and mutual respect permeate the entire work, from C1 to C4.