Launch of newly translated novel brings CN Tower to life

If the CN Tower could speak, what would it say? What rich and varied stories would it tell? Is the CN Tower male or female? In the English translation of York University Professor Emeritus Hédi Bouraoui’s novel Thus Speaks the CN Tower, she is female and the stories include an Aboriginal who rappels from the top and his son who scales it years later and redeems his father.

Translated by York English Professor Elizabeth Sabiston, Thus Speaks the CN Tower will be officially launched Wednesday, May 13 from 2 to 4pm in the York University Bookstore in York Lanes, Keele campus.

The original French language version of the novel, Ainsi parle la Tour CN, was launched at the CN Tower in 1999 and won the 2000 Prix Littéraire de l’Afrique Méditerranéenne/Maghreb as well as the Prix du Salon du Livre de Toronto in 2000. It was also a finalist for the Trillium Award that same year.

“It is hoped that it will reach a new public,” says Sabiston. “It encapsulates the history of Toronto, and indeed of Canada, for the last 30 years, as the city and the country become increasingly multicultural.”

Bouraoui is the author of 20 books of poetry, a dozen novels and several books of literary criticism, including The Critical Strategy (1983) and Transpoétique: Éloge du Nomadisme, which won the APFUCC Prize for Best Scholarly Works published in French in 2005

Best CN Tower Story Ever Contest

In conjunction with the launch of Thus Speaks the CN Tower, the York Bookstore is hosting a Best CN Tower Story Ever Contest.

Perform any anecdote, improvised or scripted, funny or serious, a capella or bring musical accompaniment, and include a reference to the CN Tower.

The best story will win a $25 gift card from the Bookstore. Runners up will receive a copy of the newly released book. Readings begin at 2:30pm.

“Bouraoui had the conceit of giving the CN Tower a voice. Since Tour in French is gendered female, and despite its phallic appearance, the CN Tower increasingly assumes a female voice and nurtures the many people who visit or work in her every day,” says Sabiston. “She takes a particular interest in the individuals who built her with their own hands: the new immigrants/contractors and, above all literally, the Amerindians, Mohawks who, with their mysterious gift for heights, crowned the tower.”

In the story, Mohawk character Pete Deloon gives the tower its finishing touch, then leaps off attached only by a rope. The feat gets him fired from his job at the tower.

“This Ariadne’s thread connects the plot focusing on a gallery of finely etched characters, including, notably, Pete’s first wife, the artist and journalist Twylla Blue, and their son Moki,” says Sabiston. “The novel is a paean to tolerance, understanding, and Canadian multiculturalism as a work-in-progress, an ideal unlikely to come to realization anywhere else in the world.”

Sabiston also translated Bouraoui’s novel Retour à Thyna and published The Muse Strikes Back: Female Narratology in the Novels of Hédi Bouraoui.

Bouraoui is the former chair of French studies at York, former master of Stong College and founder of the Canada-Maghreb Centre in 2002. He has taught courses in contemporary theory and contemporary fiction for York’s Graduate Program in English and postcolonial Maghrebian literature for graduate French. Currently, he is Writer-in-Residence at Stong.

Food and refreshments will be served. RSVP by Tuesday, May 12 to Michael Legris at ext. 22078 or e-mail