Book: Am I Disturbing You? A Novel

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Am I Disturbing You?: A Novel

Author: Anne Hébert, Sheila Fischman
Publisher: House Of Anansi

This is the story of Édouard, Stéphane, and the spirited girl they find alone and apparently lost in Paris. When the two men offer the young Quebec girl shelter for the night, their lives are profoundly and irrevocably changed. Stéphane falls quickly for Delphine, but Édouard, a man without expectations who hides from the world in a life of mediocrity and whose only desire is to live and die quietly, is slower to accept her. He is disturbed by Delphine’s abrupt arrival in his life, her strange accent, her excessive passion. Then, just as he opens himself to her exuberance and vulnerability, he is torn violently from her and left to unravel the mysteries of her sudden presence and absence.

Anne Hébert’s fifth novel in translation (originally published under the title Est-ce que je te dérange?) springs from a place between dream and reality, and offers a disturbing look into the workings of fascination and obsession. Tortured love, broken childhoods, and the forces of nature and death are woven into this extraordinary, poetic tale from one of Canada’s most important writers.


Am I Disturbing You?, Anne Hébert’s strange, poetic novel, tells the story of two young Parisian slackers, Édouard and Stéphane, who come upon a displaced, pregnant Québécoise girl named Delphine sitting half-dazed on the fountain at Saint-Sulpice. Impulsively befriending her, they soon become enmeshed in her vague stories of her past and her present emotional tumult. She has come to France in pursuit of the father of her child, a travelling fishing tackle sales representative named Patrick, who is married to a fat and spiritually ravenous woman. Stéphane immediately falls in love with Delphine, but Édouard resents her intrusion into his life; inevitably, it is Édouard whom Delphine chooses as her shelterer and confidant as she stalks Patrick throughout France. Delphine is, of course, doomed—the novel begins with her peaceful death in Édouard’s bed—and Hébert carefully, obscurely traces the path to her heroine’s youthful end.

Am I Disturbing You? is, like much of Hébert’s recent work, a difficult and meticulous book. Much narrower in scope than earlier novels such as Kamouraska, it makes up for this in its precision and intensity, its subtle violence and existential terror. This is a very short novel, one that on a first, fleeting reading may seem merely beautiful and enigmatic, but it demands—and rewards—rereading. —Jack Illingworth

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