• James Armstrong

Engaging and beguiling tales of India the trademark of emerging Hudson author


Hudson author Serge Sabourin reveals some of the mystery of India and his long-term love affair with its people.

Local author Serge Sabourin and editor Jon Torell are launching their shared work, The White Handkerchief and Other Stories in Hudson Saturday, December 3.

This is a maiden voyage not only for the book, a collection of five short stories, but also for their author, Sabourin. It all began when Sabourin made his first solo trip to India in 1973.

“It was a different world back then,” he said of India in a recent interview. “I went to India to live with the people.” His love and respect for the people and country are clearly evident in his stories that are distilled episodes from a love affair that has developed over 40 years and 14 visits.

Sabourin is a natural storyteller, a raconteur, who is able to report an event, bring it to life and let the characters of his tale relate directly with their audience. Each story is an episode in time, a slice of reality in a place where anything can happen and usually does.

“They are real events, they really happened,” he said of the adventures described in the stories. Who could disbelieve the existence of a bill-board advertising “Come and die in Varanasi”?

Language played a key role in his experience of India. “Everything was happening in English but it wasn’t their language,” said Sabourin whose native language is French. The distance between the languages created a space where a relationship without words was possible, according to the author.

Fittingly, the process of writing the stories began with their telling. “I would tell my friends stories about my trips to India and they would say I should publish them,” he said. Instead, the stories were recorded and then transcribed by editor Jon Torell.

“It took a lot of hours,” said Torell, a published author and poet in his own right. “I would listen to the tapes and then confirm with Serge,” he added. The end result was well worth the time and effort. Each story, although short, dramatic, and episodic, is complete in itself and leaves the reader wanting for more. “I would like to develop some of the characters further, tell more of their story” said Sabourin when asked if there are plans for further publications.

“The genre is what Judith Isherwood calls ‘creative non-fiction’,” said Torell adding, “but I also call it magic realism.” Isherwood is editor in chief of Shoreline, the publisher of the collection of short stories.

Author and editor will be present with copies of The White Handkerchief and Other Stories at Crème Brulée Hudson, 429 Main Road, Hudson, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 3.

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