Leaving aside for a moment the investigations of André Surprenant, Jean Lemieux offers this year La Dame de la rue des Messieurs, a luminous and lively novel, where a man and a woman in the autumn of their lives embark on a great quest. Between Quebec, Austria and the Czech Republic, a Montrealer and a grumpy old piano teacher go back in time to the year 1968, when their respective destinies changed.
Michèle, a pretty widow in her sixties, decides on a whim to leave her home in Quebec to go to Vienna. There she meets Tomas, a piano teacher, and becomes his pupil. Their friendly relationship, which is built to the sound of Beethoven's music, raises awareness, but also awakens old wounds.
Jean Lemieux intertwines eras, goes back in time, examines the lives and questions of these characters who do not necessarily have a glorious past or great ambitions.
Jean Lemieux, in an interview, explains that the story of Michèle, a virtuoso pianist who settles in Vienna, was born from an autobiographical story that was completely transformed, and where fictional characters were integrated.
“There are things a bit borrowed from my family life: rue Marquette, rue Fabre where my parents were born. This universe. Nobody was a piano virtuoso in our house, but there was still piano. I'm a music maniac and I write stuff that often revolves around music."
Vienna, a splendid city
Vienna stood out because he went there often – his daughter is a literature teacher there. “I know the city. I feel like home there. Then came the character of the piano teacher, who has his own story.
“During the summer of 2020, I got back into it and managed to do a whole around the theme of the child. For Tomas, it's the child he didn't take on. Michèle's life changed when she became a mother. She put aside her personal ambitions. Michèle sabotaged her career during a memorable concert ending with the cult notes of La Vache à Mailhot.
An integrated musical score
The music-loving writer also refers to the life of Beethoven, through this story.
“I got out of my comfort zone a bit. I've written thrillers and fairly linear novels. I've interspersed bits on Beethoven. I re-read bricks on it. I had a lot of fun creating a new form with this novel. The life of the central characters is highlighted around Beethoven.
After having worked and reworked the manuscript, Jean Lemieux is happy with the result and happy to have integrated a musical score.
“This is a book that I had a lot of fun writing. I think it's a bit broken. It is a literary object that I love. I listen to music for five or six hours a day. I'm a very ordinary musician, but music feeds me completely. When I was young, I taught myself the piano. I still play it, but I have no technique. For me, there is no greater artist than a musician.”
For the record, the cover of the book evokes the city of Vienna and is inspired by an architectural style specific to Vienna, the Art Nouveau of Vienna, the Jugendstil. “She is remarkable, very original and very beautiful. People talk to me about it a lot.”
"What is love? Why do some human beings put so much energy into looking for a soul mate, the ideal accomplice who will provide them, free of charge, they believe, with a pass to happiness? Why do other women, other men, find balance in pragmatic relationships based on the principle that romanticism is a residue of the Middle Ages that should be updated by a kind of entrepreneurial spirit? Why do others, finally, choose to live alone, free from the halter of the couple?