Montréal Lit: Le Matou et la Binerie

Spacing Montreal is pleased to host a bi-weekly column exploring Montreal’s literary landscape, written by Gregory McCormick, Director of English Programming for the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival.

After walking by this non-descript store front on Mont-Royal near Saint-Denis countless times without a second glance, I was surprised to learn that La Binerie plays a central role in Yves Beauchemin’s classic 1981 novel Le Matou, a seminal and highly influential modern work of Quebec literature.

Le Matou  tells the story of a young married couple, Florent and Elise Boissonneault, and the way fate can both lift us up and knock us down. The couple take in a neighbourhood kid, Emile, who has an absent and drunk mother, and struggle to offer him a stable home all while taking over the running of La Binerie. Meanwhile, the restaurant is growing in popularity and becomes a media darling for its re-introduction to the public of certain traditional Québecois dishes:

Le lendemain matin, Rosario Gladu publiait dans sa chronique L’actualité maintenant l’entrefilet suivant :

Parmi les restaurants chez qui j’ai l’habitude d’aller réparer mes forces, il en est un sans pareil à tous les autres. Je désire parler de La Binerie, rue Mont-Royal. Florent Boissoneault, son sympathique propriétaire, est un gars vraiment bien correct, pour employer une expression du territoire. Depuis quelques semaines, il s’est fait un jeune ami du nom de Monsieur Émile, six ans, qui mange à cet endroit sans avoir à débourser la moindre dépense.

– Ça n’est pas donné à tout le monde d’avoir des parents riches, m’a dit le chic propriétaire Boissoneault.  Je fais ma part pour une société juste.

Tout ceci pour vous dire que les mets de La Binerie constituent une véritable aventure gastrique pour le gourmet, le tout terminé par une facture des plus raisonnables.

Throughout the work, a cat named Déjeuner provides a link between the exotic and dubious foreigner, the Montreal street kid (already a drunk at age 6), and the upstanding if slightly befuddled young couple.

This is one of the joys of living in a city and experiencing its very streets and even store fronts coming alive through its art. Now everytime I walk by this previously unremarkable row of shops, I think about this book, about Florent, about the tragic and comic Emile and the Matou, a scraggly street cat called Breakfast.

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