The Invisible Lines, the first novel by Su J. Sokol, begins with the story of illegal immigration, by bicycle, of a family American left-wing activist fleeing an increasingly despotic country. The science fiction novel, published in English in 2014 under the title Cycling to Asylum, offers an almost prophetic view of rising inequality and extremism in the United States. And it's also a love letter to Montreal, a city-sanctuary where Su J. Sokol, like her characters, has found refuge.
The Invisible Lines< /em> tells the story of a family fleeing New York City in the near future. The family crosses the border into Quebec by bicycle and asks for political asylum. This journey, literally and figuratively, is told by each of the four characters. Everyone gives their point of view on the epic.
Laek is a history teacher with a mysterious past. Janie is a lawyer, activist and musician. The two children, Siri and Simon, also recount the epic bicycle trip that will change their lives forever.
In a telephone interview, Su J. Sokol, who speaks very good French, recounts the genesis of this novel published in the Imaginary collection of VLB Éditeur.
“When I had the idea for the novel, it was in 2008. I was cycling home. I worked for a community organization that works a lot with immigrants and refugees. And I myself am an immigrant. I said to myself: if ever someone from the United States needs to flee to seek asylum, the best way would be to do it by bicycle, to choose a very small border crossing and to go there by bicycle with the children. »
Su J. Sokol thought this was a great idea for a novel. “But the problem is that people here, in Canada, in Quebec, did not believe that someone who lives in the United States is going to need to seek asylum. Throughout history, there have been many times when people there have sought to come to Quebec and Canada for various reasons.”
What to do then? It had to be said that the novel was set in the near future, like science fiction, adds Su. “That way I don't have to argue with some people about the current conditions in the United States. There's a lot of stuff I talked about in the novel that was some stuff I saw, in real life, but got exaggerated in the novel.”
“After the release of the novel, people said that I had planned certain things. But for me, it was things that had already been seen.”
Montreal, city of refuge
Su J. Sokol considers Montreal to be a city-sanctuary, a city where they have truly found respite, an asylum. “For me, I would say yes, more or less. This is not the case for everyone, however. I felt very comfortable here, the people were very nice. At the beginning, I didn't speak French and I only knew a few words. When I tried to speak French, people encouraged me even though I made a lot of mistakes.”
Su found Montreal to be hopeful, calm and open-minded. “I find it to be a much greener city than cities in the United States. The political system, although like all political systems it has its problems, offers different points of view, different parties. I find that things change much faster here. I still have hope and I believe that we can change things for the better.”
► In bookstores August 10.
Su Sokol moved to Montreal from New York several years ago.
Figure very active in the world of English-language science fiction, he also wrote Run J Run(Renaissance Press, 2019) and the youth novel Zee, published in English and French by Mouton noir Acadie (2020).
The original edition in was shortlisted for the Sunburst Prize.
“– When you were little, thought you sometimes see what it is, a border? I do. A lot. Maybe because my mother and I had to move often. When we went from one state to another, I scanned the road. I was trying to locate the big black line I saw on the map. Erin smiled, but said nothing. — Someone finally explained to me that the lines on the cards did not exist in real life. Neither between states, nor even between countries. It got me thinking. If borders are imaginary lines, why can't people just step over them? — But you know the answer to that question, Laek. You're an adult now.”
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128