Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Quebec’s writer-in-residence in Ontario: Peter Dubé

Montreal writer talks about storytelling and surrealism

Endless tunnels beneath a strange city. Rapacious wolf-kings. Golden apples you just can’t pick. These dark images drift through Peter Dubé’s work — sensitive, subliminal mind-trips through the underworld of human relationships.

In anticipation of Dubé’s imminent arrival in Toronto (as the Quebec writer-in-residence in Ontario), he talks to Xtra about storytelling, surrealism and the borders of desire.

Take his short-story collection At the Bottom of the Sky, for example. Dubé says the trigger for this particular work was a friend who had a tendency to tailor their life story to the audience.

“I caught this person changing a detail here or there, exaggerating some things and leaving out others. It made the discussion paradoxically meaningful by creating new images through which to view things,” he says.

Down-on-their luck artists, jilted lovers and brilliant paranoid schizophrenics are among the storytellers, none of whom the reader — or the other characters — can absolutely trust. This in-between space of truth and not-truth, between reality and the story, this “hybridity,” as Dubé calls it, “of things which are not one thing or the other,” clings to every word in this collection.

“I think hybridity gets a lot of attention from queer writers because, until quite recently, we didn’t fit into a lot of the socially and culturally established categories,” Dubé says. “My own interest comes from that, but also from an interest in ambiguity in a more general sense, the space between the truth and the lies within which things change.”

At the Bottom of the Sky is not the only piece of delightfully weird queer-lit on Dubé’s resume. He is also the editor of the 2008 anthology Madder Love, which explores gay male relationships and surrealism. The title is a subversion of the book Mad Love, a novel by the notoriously homophobic leader of the French surrealist movement, André Breton. Mad Love is absorbed with the writer’s frantic obsession with a woman — Madder Love takes this and applies the surreal elements to the depths of gay male desire.

“Both gay writing and surrealism are deeply interested in desire as a theme, and subject matter with psychology and the way subjectivity works,” Dubé says of the work, as to why the two themes fit together for him.

With the exception of a few bouts of “long travelling,” Dubé has lived and worked in Montreal all his life. Armed with an MA from Concordia University’s Creative Writing Program, Dubé has been nominated for LAMBDA and Relit awards. Dubé is also an arts writer and the author of the novel Hovering World.

“I want [the reader] to get pleasure [out of my work],” he says, “for it to move, stir and change them.”

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