Governor General’s Award Finalist
The Globe 100: The very best of 2011
Somewhere in Montreal, in the not too distant future, an obscure company offers custom-designed suicides for its clients with one condition: their desire to die must be pure and absolute. Antoinette Beauchamp is a successful candidate but her suicide is not. Now a bedridden paraplegic, hooked up to machines that monitor all her bodily functions, she tells her story, taking the reader into the Kafkaesque world of the company and its bewildering cast of characters.
Exit is at once a profound examination of what it is that drives someone to want to end their life, as well as how that urge can be turned on its head against all odds. Written with her signature brio and acerbic wit, Nelly Arcan’s last novel is a hymn to life.
Praise for Exit:
“Top 10 Book of 2011”
“a compelling crawl through the claustro confines of depression and sweeping suicidal desire … Dark, beautiful, poignant and clever, Arcan’s Exit is a powerful read.”
—Lisa Foad, The Globe & Mail
“This book plucked the brain from my skull and punted it through the uprights of remembering what writing can be like when a true artist unleashes her talent, passion and fearlessness in a book. No false compromises here. No half-steps. Just a rigorous exercise in ethics and contemporary morals wrapped in humour, helplessness and the absurd. For a book about suicide the writing is tight, energetic, rigorous … This book will be on my best of the year list.”
—Sean Cranbury, Books on the Radio
“…a remarkable and stunning must-read addition to this year’s crop of English CanLit … It is dark, bleak, shocking and ceaselessly gripping.”
—Mike Landry, The Telegraph-Journal
“Arcan liberates us from the accepted norms and conventions with this courageous and profound novel. She does all this while bathing the reader in scatalogical vulgarity, which leaves neither pretense nor pretension to hide behind.”
—Jenny Smith, Room
“[The protagonist’s] voice is thoroughly belligerent, as she mercilessly explains why she is bent on pursuing hopelessness, ugliness, all that is antithetical to life, and what it means to exist without ‘that strength of will to desire, to discover, to love, to believe’ … Ultimately, though, Exit is a strangely hopeful novel …”
— Canadian Literature
“A powerful argument for suicide as a human right, Exit is also strangely life-affirming. Ordinarily, these contradictory positions could suffice as the motor of a plot. Arcan’s protagonist is the irascible, narcissistic Antoinette Beauchamp, who seeks strength and reason to live from within the depths of her own twisted psychology. Knowing that the young woman who wrote this outrageously beautiful, thoroughly original novel did not is, well, heartbreaking. Cruel, even. So Exit and the late Nelly Arcan’s life are a package. In the end, though, I only thought of Nelly Arcan. How could she have had this book inside her, let it out, and still leave us? Great beauty can be found in very dark places.”
“A work of originality pushed to the limit. It’s crazy. Full of imagination. Even funny at times. A story unlike any other.”
—Danielle Laurin, Le Devoir
“Her writing will grab you and pull you into a fabulous world.”
—Benoît Aubin, Le Journal de Québec
Nelly Arcan was born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Her first novel Putain (2001; Whore, 2004, Grove Press), drawing on her experience working in the sex trade in Montreal, caused a sensation and enjoyed immediate critical and media success. It was a finalist for both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Femina, two of France’s most prestigious literary awards. Two more novels followed, establishing her as a literary star in Quebec and France: Folle (2004), also nominated for the Prix Femina; and À ciel ouvert (2007). She is also the author of an illustrated book on the beauty myth for young girls: L’enfant dans le miroir (2007).
Paradis, clef en main (Exit) was her fourth novel and was completed just days before she committed suicide in 2009 at the age of thirty-six.