On June 6, 2012, Vickie Gendreau was diagnosed with a brain tumour. In between treatments, between hospital stays and her "room of her own," she wrote Testament, an autofictional novel in which she imagines her death and at the same time, bequeaths to her friends and family both the fragmented story of her last year and the stories of the loved ones who keep her memory alive, in language as raw and flamboyant as she was.
In the teasing and passionate voice of a twenty-three-year-old writer, inspired as much by literature as by YouTube and underground music, Gendreau's sense of image, her relentless self-deprecation, and the true emotion in every sentence add up to an uncompromising work that reflects the life of a young woman who lived without inhibitions, for whom literature meant everything right up until the end.
In this way, Testament (translated by talented writer and translator Aimee Wall), inverts the elegiac, "grief memoir" form and plays with the notion of a last testament, thereby beating any would-be eulogists to the punch.
Author and poet Gendreau began writing this moving "autofictional" novel after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2012. The book examines her life and looks forward, contemplating her death (which came in May 2013, when she was 24) and the effect it will have and its inevitability has already had on her friends and loved ones. It is broken into sections in which the author bequeaths poems and fennec foxes to certain individuals, and constructs testimonials and commentary imagining how she will be remembered. Wall's translation preserves Gendreau's vulnerability and honesty as she dwells on an unrequited love and her regret over not being there for a friend prior to his suicide. The novel switches between larger blocks of text from Gendreau, her inner circle of friends and family, and several noms de plume she employs to briefly step outside herself and point-form poetry that reads sometimes like synapses firing abstractly and at random. While the text suffers at times from a feeling of emotional separation, with its construction and intentional artistry overwhelming its seemingly more impassioned and naked aspects, the journey through the end of Gendreau's life and beyond remains delicate, introspective, and wholly unusual. It is a literary trip worth taking.