Fanie Demeule

Anita Anand

March 2020

Told with startling, unapologetic honesty and in a haunting, minimalist style, Lightness is the story of a young woman's profound sense of alienation, beginning with her own physical body and its desires. In this original and moving take on anorexia, we go deep into the mind of the narrator as she carries out her secret, prolonged hunger strike against the constraints of her life.

The original French version of Lightness (Déterrer les os) won the Best First Novel Prize at the Biennale littéraire des Cèdres in 2018 and was adapted for stage at the Centre du Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui in Montreal.

"At only 26, Fanie Demeule's sharp pen has crafted a shocking first novel." 

BRONZE for the First Fiction Miramichi Reader Very Best Book Award

FANIE DEMEULE is working on a doctorate at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where she now teaches. Her second novel, Roux clair naturel (Hamac, 2019) was published to much acclaim. With Lightness, she appears in English for the first time. She lives in Montreal.
Author website:

ANITA ANAND is an author, translator and language teacher from Montreal. She is the winner of the 2015 QWF-Concordia First Book Prize for Swing in the House and Other Stories. Her translation of Nirliit, by Juliana Léveillé-Trudel was nominated for the 2018 John Glassco Prize. She is currently working on a novel.

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Format: Trade paper

Size: 8.5 x 5.5 in.

Pages: 85

What they say
A haunting debut
Gayatri Kumar, Literary Review of Canada

Reading Fanie Demeule's airtight debut can feel a bit like watching a body-horror installation in a dark, windowless room. The narrator is struggling with an eating disorder that steadily consumes her; she’s also practically the only character in the book. But that’s not to say that it’s an entirely unpleasant experi-ence. Lightness is a spare, stylized, and beautiful exploration of a young woman’s life- threatening obsession.

The novel was first published in 2016 under another haunting title, Déterrer les os. For a debut, it’s a bold undertaking, one that shocks with form as well as content. Across its scant eighty-plus pages, paragraphs appear in small, bite- sized chunks — a teasing invitation to devour the text quickly. A relentless rhythm of clipped sentences drives an increas-ingly insular narrative. Demeule’s protagonist remains distant through-out, so much so that we never learn her name. She tells her story with clinical detachment and with little hint of self- awareness, only a transfix-ing descent into self- loathing. “I find myself fatter than ever,” she says. “I’m a fake at being skinny, another fucking wannabe. There’s nothing convincing about me. I’m just a fucking joke.”

... The book, then, is more an aesthetic project than a moral one. Demeule’s delicate and richly allusive prose evokes both the beauty and the terror of her protagonist’s predicament, and it traps us, and her character, somewhere in between. Well into her eating disorder and rail thin, the narrator goes snowshoeing and marvels at how she hovers over the snow. The grandiosity of her self- description frequently contrasts with the reality of her declining health. She’s strong, she tells us, like the sun, like the deer she sees on her walk. She then conjures an image of free-dom so thrilling and ethereal that we give in to the beauty of it without question. “My silhouette glides over valleys and hills, squeezes between the branches and rocks. . . . Antlers grow through my tuque, and I can feel a coat of fur bristling on my back. My eyes pierce the polar night.”

It is the imagery that makes Lightness such an enthralling read, even if the surrender to it can feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic at times. The narrator describes it best when she’s on her way to the hospital, midway through the novel. “It would be almost pleasant if I weren’t so scared.”
Read more.
October 2020, Literary Review of Canada

All Lit Up: Writer's Block
All Lit Up

We talk with Montreal-based author Fanie Demeule of the haunting, minimalist novel Lightness — which won the Best First Novel Prize in French and has since been translated into English by Anita Anand — about the opposite of writer's block, her influences, and how her writing rituals mirror what she writes.

All Lit Up: Which writers have influenced you or had the most impact on your own writing?
Fanie Demeule: Sylvia Plath, Annie Ernaux, Nelly Arcan, Ying Chen, Karoline Georges, Claire Legendre, Amélie Nothomb, Geneviève Brisac, Toni Morrison, among others. 

ALU: What do you enjoy reading?
FD: Autofictions, memoirs, short stories, screenplays, essays, fantasy and horror novels, history books, tarot cards. I’m also very curious about interviews with artists.

ALU: What’s one book you always recommend?
FD: Beloved by Toni Morrison

Read more.
March 2020, All Lit Up

An Airy Tale
Anya Leibovitch, Montreal Review of Books

The unnamed narrator of Fanie Demeule’s Lightness is only one and a half years old when she has her first memorable experience of grief. She describes a visit to a seaside amusement park with her parents, where she becomes entranced with the merry-go-round. Eventually the park closes, and she is forced to leave. The narrator recounts, “Somewhere in my brain, one zone turns off, and another lights up. I understand that everything has to end, and that this is just the way things are in the natural scheme of things. I was born and I died on a wooden pony.”
Read more.
March 2020, The Montreal Review of Books

"A gut-punching novel of untamed veracity"
James Fisher, Miramichi Reader

Lightness is a gut-punching novel of untamed veracity as to the depths of infatuation that a misperception of body image can take one. It is a disease that exalts bones over fat, sees food as poison and marginalizes the victim as family and friends withdraw from the walking skeletal remains of one they used to love and enjoy being with. It affects all aspects of life and Ms. Demeule conveys this message clearly and unequivocally in Lightness

I am putting Lightness on “The Very Best!” Book Awards 2020 longlist for Best First Book (Fiction).

March 2020, The Miramichi Reader

From the French press

“At only 26, Demeule's sharp pen has crafted a shocking first novel. Masterfully chronicling the negative effects of ordinary life on the unnamed narrator, she exposes the ravages and scars left on the body by society and family.”
 — Chatelaine

“A knock-out punch about self-loathing and its devastating effects. Demeule succeeds, in under a hundred pages, at making the descent into anorexia a believable hell. By deftly avoiding pathos and self-pity, Lightness offers a refreshing insight into mental disorders and the accompanying psychological distress. A first novel that will leave no one indifferent. Demeule is an author to watch.”
 Les libraires

“The language may be familiar but Fanie Demeule injects a great literary force that insists we give voice to the troubles inhabiting the bodies of women. Demeule writes from a place of astonishing strength.”
— Gabrielle Doré, Le fil rouge

“I am transfixed by this masterpiece of accuracy and honesty. Remember her name. I am convinced we will read it again.”
— Martine Levesque


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