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On the Eighth Day

On the Eighth Day

In On the Eighth Day, Antonine Maillet imagines a solution to the world's problems: a wider and more exuberant world, with its right more left and its left more right, created on "the day when everything is dared and anything is possible." She spins a tale of two brothers — a giant carved from an oak tree and a scamp shaped out of bread dough — born one remarkable night when magic made wishes come true. Thrilled to have a son to call their own, Mr. Goodman and Mrs. Goodwife play favourite and bicker over which creation is the better child, causing a rift in the family.

To ease the fighting, John-Bear and Big-as-a-Fist decide to set off to seek their fortunes. But first they must visit their godmother, Clara-Galante, to receive their inheritance. A witch who lives deep in the woods, she gives them three wishes and some kind words, before sending the heroes "out into the world to follow their curious destiny beyond the hills on the horizon," left foot first for good luck.

Wending their way through unforgettable lands — the Timeless Village, the Upside-Down Town, the Path of the Vicious Circle — the lads make many strange friends, who, peculiar as they are, seem strangely familiar. But, wherever Life leads them, Death lurks close behind.

A wonderful picaresque akin to a cheerful Gulliver's Travels, a comic Pilgrim's Progress or an Acadian Wizard of Oz, On the Eighth Day is a fast-moving tale starring richly developed characters in a funny and poignant road story in which allegory gains power by taking a back seat to enchantment.


Antonine Maillet is one of Canada's best-known writers. Among her many honours are the Prix Goncourt, which she received for her novel Pélagie-la-charette, the first non-French citizen to do so, and the Governor General's Award for fiction for Don L'Orignal, both available in translation from Goose Lane Editions.

Wayne Grady has translated eight novels and edited six anthologies of short stories. He won the Governor General's Award for his translation of On the Eighth Day by Antonine Maillet and was nominated for the 2005 Governor General's Award for his translation of Francine D'Amour's Return from Africa.

"A highly readable book, close in style to the mock-heroic tone of Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Grady's rhythmic recasting is faultless and his translation is boundlessly inventive." — University of Toronto Quarterly

"The book's strength lies in its vibrant and pithy characters and its rare startling scenes." — Weblog Français Ottawa

"The voice of [Maillet's] narrator is what carries us along, and this voice — these voices — are so strong that I can actually hear them." — The Globe and Mail

276 pages
Pub date: April 28, 2006