Soline Asselin | Journey to the land of great adventurers

One day a woman gets behind the wheel. Direction: Cape Canaveral, to make an old childhood dream come true. Under the guise of a travel story, in a feminine “road trip” style, Soline Asselin offers in this very first novel a real journey through time to the land of great adventurers, as little-known as they are pioneers.

Journey to a rocket, published these days by Éditions du Marchand de Feuilles, is a fascinating read in several respects. This isn’t your usual light summer novel, let’s say. Instead, expect a strong and engaging story to read and share, which gives back to Joan of Arc what is to Joan of Arc (to quote the most famous). But also to Jeanne Barret (first woman to circumnavigate the world), Bessie Stringfield (first African-American to circumnavigate the United States on a motorcycle) or Ada Blackjack (who holds a survival record in the Arctic) which gave them belongs to them, but which has been denied to them, or simply ignored, for so many years. To them, as well as to a good twenty others that we discover throughout the pages.

The author, co-founder of the Filministes festival, also a doctoral student in arts studies and practices, took five years to write this first novel which can be read in one go, and which makes you want to move, it should be noted . And seeing the quantity of references of all kinds, both scientific, literary and historical, it is not surprising.


Author Soline Asselin

Basically, I wanted to write a book about female adventurers, and I had a very academic book in mind.

Soline Asselin, author

“Then the story was added, to have a form that fits the travel story,” adds the author, met earlier this week.

In this skillfully constructed novel, we follow the alter ego of Soline Asselin from her departure from Montreal to Florida, through her numerous stops and as many wanderings. Here in a rest stop, there in a Walmart parking lot, the journey exudes Americanness and that’s intentional. During its approximately 3,400 kilometers through the mountains of West Virginia and Tennessee, each encounter, reflection or state of mind, from solitude to fear through courage and curiosity, is a pretext for a detour into the time, in the feminine, we will have understood it.

This is how her first kilometers are fueled by a reflection on all those women who stayed behind waiting for their men, like Penelope in The odyssey of Homer. If women have long been denied the freedom to travel, Soline Asselin continues with the story of the first woman to have traveled around the world: Jeanne Barret. “There were surely others before, except that they did not leave any traces,” the author specifies here. Did you know ? At the time (1776), women were prohibited on board exploration ships. They are said to bring bad luck. Determined to leave, Jeanne Barret binds her breasts and adopts a deep voice, and thus succeeds in fooling the troops and accompanying Philibert Commerson, naturalist to Louis XV, on his expedition.

Where are the women ?

It was while watching a short film by Georges Méliès, made in 1902 (The journey to the moon), that the narrator, whose father was a great traveler, began to think about this question of the place of women as eternally secondary characters. In this silent film, she writes, we see a bearded wizard explaining to his colleagues all the technological mechanics behind this anticipated trip to the Moon. In the back: three women appear to be passionately taking notes. But a few shots later, when takeoff finally takes place, they are not on the trip. “It’s not courage that pushes me to leave alone,” writes the author, who confides that she was afraid all along. It’s more that I want revenge from the secondary characters. » What if these three women had been on the trip? What if we told the stories of all those, little known, who ended up traveling?

She does not hide it, there is something very satisfying in finally paying tribute here to these pioneers of the shadows. “Still,” said Soline Asselin, laughing. But it’s less a revenge than another story. »

“These supporting characters are the main characters in so many stories! », underlines the author.

My goal is to highlight these experiences that we don’t know.

Soline Asselin, author

Certainly, in doing so she found herself with certain “tensions” that were difficult to reconcile. Because if several women are true feminist heroines, their journey is often part of a colonialist trajectory. “It’s a tension that cannot be resolved,” says Soline Asselin. We must not deny it. When you write from real lives, you have to deal with the fact that these lives are imperfect. » The best example: cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space. “Today she is a Duma deputy and votes for Putin. She said that Zelensky was the Antichrist,” she slips. Hence the question, which underlies the text: “How far can we admire someone? »

Still. “I hope that people will be interested in figures that are not always the same,” the author hopes. I hope that people will break away from their usual routines and remember that it is an immense privilege to be able to travel. » A privilege that we owe in large part to all these daring pioneers.

Journey to a rocket

Journey to a rocket

Leaf seller

285 pages

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