‘Not a landscape for the unassertive’


From Five Dials:

In Montreal, it is the women I always notice first. They are lithe, bold and astonishingly lovely. On the bicycle path, girls in tiny skirts float by, long hair curling, thighs spread, toenails polished. Necklines plummet and legs, shapely, tanned, long and beckoning, dazzle the boulevards. Even now, in the biting cold, the streets are filled with half-dressed beauties in shorts and diaphanous stockings. In the far-flung neighbourhoods, away from the escort agencies and strip clubs, restaurants de serveuses sexy are both naughty and workaday: ravenous men hunch over their breakfast specials while women, nude but for their clicking heels and a sheer scarf around their hips, wait tables.

‘Ours is not a landscape for the unassertive,’ writes Clark Blaise in his Montreal Stories. ‘Subtleties are easily lost.’

In a city creased with French–English fissures, seduction has become the default mode of communication. Montreal thrums with a youthful desire, a ferocity even. Among the circling staircases, summer swelter and delicate ornamentation, couples kiss and fight, and women swan in sweetness and in thrall.

“Transient Beauty”, Madeleine Thein, Five Dials (PDF)