The 2012 student strike was a whirlwind for many young people. This novel reflects this by diving into their daily lives.
The maple spring is at the heart of the novel The Diversity of Tactics by Antonin Marquis, but it is not the first time that the subject has inspired him.
In Les cigales, his first novel published in 2017, a duo of friends fled the student strike for a short road trip to the United States, an opportunity to revisit their choices and their ideals, as one does at 20 years old.
This time, no escape: Marquis takes us inside the vast movement of 2012, focusing on P-A, a sociology student at UQAM, and his group of friends.
The author knows how to describe the characteristics of student life: we read Bourdieu, Chomsky, Lipovetsky while drinking beers; we get dizzy with debates while screwing around and tripping on video games; we wonder about the revolution at a McDo table. In the spring of 2012, we must add the effervescence of the demonstrations to counter the announced increase in tuition fees.
It starts slowly, with very long general assemblies, then gigantic and joyful marches. But the government does not give in and police control is tightened. Protesting is no longer peaceful.
So what to do: stay home, stand behind, or go to the front? It is here that the thesis of the diversity of tactics slips in: "to respect the limits and the intentions of each and everyone in their militant action". But limits are moving: how far does a theory, whether it advocates provocation or pacifism, manage to hold up once in the field? There will be surprising reversals.
As if we were there
All this makes for a lively, enthusiastic, dense novel, stuck to the daily life of the strike – but so attentive to detail that sometimes you get lost in it.
This is especially the case in the first part. Thus dialogues that intertwine: the author wants to illustrate their liveliness, but we no longer know who is responding to whom. More effective is the way to present the texting exchanges that take place in parallel: brackets, bold characters and everything becomes clear.
Similarly, there is no escaping the heavy unfolding of a general meeting – it makes you want to slip away before the vote! These scenes could have been tightened up.
Paradoxically, the chaos of the street scenes is described with sharpness! Projectiles thrown, police rushing or surrounding, young people fleeing or being arrested, the sound of saucepans, it's as if we were there.
When the movement runs out of steam, P-A and his friends are faced with other choices – of loves, of careers, of lifestyles – marked by what the maple spring has made them discover about themselves and their society. We have not finished exploring this heritage.
This is why, in spite of blunders, it is a strong novel of its authenticity and necessary.