Bilingual journal builds cultural bridges

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Le Bathyscaphe

“We’re really at the crossroads between Europe and the USA and English Canada. And I think we need more things where we show that,” says Benoît Chaput, one of Le Bathyscaphe’s five editors. “With Le Bathyscaphe, we’re trying to really have this spirit of Montreal, a place where you can express yourself in English and French. And both cultural worlds are interesting, and whichever community you’re a part of, you should be interested in the other.”

We’re talking about the bilingual cultural paper he co-founded, which boasts an impressive roster of contributors, including regular columns by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore, wickedly funny and smart sex editorials by Valerie Webber and numerous explorations of the intersections between the worlds of art, music, poetry and space.

Each author writes in their preferred language, English or French. “There’s more and more people able to speak both languages,” he says. “I’ve been witnessing [this] since the ’80s in the community, and there’s more and more anglophones that actually speak French. This is very interesting, and I think it’s one of the strengths of Montreal.”

Le Bathyscaphe, he reveals, is all about translating different cultures to one another. “It’s really a friend thing that sort of evolved, since we’re all from different cultures, different generations and have a different approach, and we thought we should have a paper where you feel this thing, that we could talk about all these things from different points of view. What we really wanted was a paper that doesn’t talk about cultural actualities; we didn’t want to sell new cultural stuff. We wanted to do something where we talk about what matters to us, and it could reference stuff from 20 years ago or from last week as we please, not selling the new album that just came out.”

Le Bathyscaphe, which won best francophone zine for its latest issue at Expozine 2012, launches its ninth edition this Sunday, at a party and fundraiser at Sala featuring a full slate of readings and performances of all kinds, including readings from Byron Coley, Gabe Levine and Charles Plymell. The new issue promises a series of pieces about the “psycho-geography” of Mexico, an article about recently rediscovered street photographer Vivian Maier, a feature by LA Francophile Tosh Berman about Michel Legrand and an essay by Romy Ashby on the privatization of New York City’s libraries, while artist and musician Geneviève Castrée writes about the difficulties of living in rural America as a non-driver, and Webber’s sex column takes on the thorny issue of consent. In short, it’s all pretty interesting stuff, and it’s all over the cultural map.

Chaput also runs the French-language poetry press l’Oie de Cravan, which is partly what inspired the decision to found Le Bathyscaphe. “I started publishing poetry 20 years ago, and I was very interested in publishing not only books of poems but also other things that I found very poetical, personally, such as drawings, sort of poetical comics. But I’ve also been a lot into the music scene, and I started to publish books by musicians like Mike Watt, and then I published this book by Byron Coley,” he says. These cross-genre explorations, he explains, “have always been part of my life and my way of publishing.

“We’re trying to be a little bit international in a way. It’s in English and French, so everybody writes in their own language, and part of our public can’t read all the paper. It’s a very Montreal thing.” ■

Le Bathyscaphe launch party for issue #9 and fundraiser takes place Sunday, May 12, with readings by Byron Coley accompanied by Bill Nace, Charles Plymell accompanied by Mauro Pezzente, Gabe Levine, Urbain Desbois, music by Le Clou de la Gang, Kill Chicago and Myriam and Laurence Gendron and a DJ set by Royal Air Togo, La Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent), 6 p.m., $15

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