Bookmark #6 Toronto, Ontario

Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels

Up Grace, along Henderson, up Manning to Harbord I whimpered; my spirit shape finally in familiar clothes and, with abandon, flinging its arms to the stars.

from Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, published by McClelland & Stewart. Bookmarked at College and Manning Streets, Toronto on October 28, 2010.


About Anne Michaels and Fugitive Pieces

Anne Michaels was born in Toronto in 1958, and that city has become a setting and an inspiration for both her poetry and her fiction. Fugitive Pieces was published in 1996 and was Michaels’s first novel. It generated a devoted readership and critical acclaim around the world and was published in over 30 languages. It won many Canadian and international awards, including the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, the Orange Prize, the Guardian Fiction Award and the Lannan Award for Fiction.

The novel was made into a feature film directed by Jeremy Podeswa, and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008. Fugitive Pieces is about the life and relationships of Jakob Beer, a child who survives the murder of his family during the Second World War. Jakob is smuggled from Poland to Greece and then moves with his rescuer and adopted father, Athos Roussos, to Toronto, where he must discover what it means to belong in more than one place.

Fugitive Pieces is published by McClelland & Stewart.

 Photo credit: Marzena Pogorzaly

Photo credit: Marzena Pogorzaly

The Slow Now is a downloadable audio walk that takes place in Little Italy, and uses Project Bookmark Canada’s physical Bookmark for Fugitive Pieces as its launching point.

Produced by Angela Shackel of Lipstick Studios, the audio guides you through a narrative, lyrical, and imaginative experience of the neighbourhood, stemming from the seminal book. The rich history of Little Italy, the rich tapestry of the book, and a new original narration by Mark Mann will be voiced by local figures and Anne Michaels herself. The experience may or may not include some surprises and a hidden gem or two.



The Slow Now is presented in partnership with Koffler Centre of the Arts. Project Bookmark Canada would like to thank the Ontario Trillium Foundation for its support. Read about the creative team here.


The Passage

One evening I walked up Grace Street, a summer tunnel of long shadows, the breeze from the lake a cool finger slipping gently under my damp shirt, the tumult of the market left blocks behind. In the new coolness and new quiet, a thread of memory clung to a thought. Suddenly an overheard word fastened on to a melody; a song of my mother’s that was always accompanied by the sound of brush bristles pulling through Bella’s hair, my mother’s arm drawing with the beat. The words stumbled out of my mouth, a whisper, then louder, until I was mumbling whatever I remembered.  “‘What good is the mazurka, my heart is not carefree; what good’s the girl from Vurka, if she does not love me….’” “‘Black cherries are gathered, the green are left on the tree….’”  All the way through to the opening verses of “Come to Me, Philosopher” and “How Does the Czar Drink His Tea?”

I looked around. The houses were dark, the street safely empty. I raised my voice. “‘Foolish one, don’t be so dense, don’t you have any common sense? Smoke is taller than a house, a cat is faster than a mouse….’”

Up Grace, along Henderson, up Manning to Harbord I whimpered; my spirit shape finally in familiar clothes and, with abandon, flinging its arms to the stars.

But the street wasn’t empty as I thought. Startled, I saw that the blackness was perforated with dozens of faces. A forest of eyes, of Italian and Portuguese and Greek ears; whole families sitting silently on lawnchairs and front steps. On dark verandahs, a huge invisible audience, cooling down from their small, hot houses, the lights off to keep away the bugs.

There was nothing for it but to raise my foreign song and feel understood.

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