Montreal as the Fifth Character in Bindu Suresh’s 26 Knots

Years later, he would reach out for her hand as she walked, oblivious, past where he was standing on the train paused at Lionel-Groulx. By then she will have drawn the nectar from every memory, dried the fallen petals with constant thought—the slightly ridiculous sway of his hips to jazz, the kisses in her creased palms as they made love, his crescent body arched around hers in the morning moonlight.

But then, on that warm June afternoon, that life was just beginning—Araceli and Adrien were simply two young journalists, their future before them like a field of long, swaying grass.

“This is my first fire,” she had said, opening the slim spiral notebook to a blank page as they watched charred fragments of building chip from the facade, covering the ground before them like a slow and purposeful rain.

From 26 Knots, by Bindu Suresh (Invisible Publishing, May 2019)

Bindu Suresh spoke with CJLO’s Francella Fiallos for “Superconnected.” Listen in to hear more about 26 Knots and Montreal as the fifth character.

Bindu Suresh describes 26 Knots as about a group of adults trying to love one another with varying degrees of success. Claudia Dey describes these interconnected love stories as “a lightspeed Romeo and Juliet, a billet doux to Montreal.” We invited Bindu to share with us some of her favourite writing places, the books that have inspired her, and the Montreal where the characters of 26 Knots live and love.

Writing-Places, Part 1 | Home: My favourite place to work. A table I love, a comfortable chair, warm socks whenever I want them. | Café: To write, I need either silence or the peaceful buzz of non-specific noise in the background. It helps when the latter also comes with linden tea and a cherry clafoutis! | Art on the Walk In Between: A mural in my neighbourhood, the Quartier des Spectacles, and floating cutlery in a design store a few blocks from home.

Writing-Places, Part 2: Writing at Work | Less glamourous, but here I am trying to sneak in a few edits while working as the on-call pediatrician overnight in the neonatal ICU. This was something I tried once and then never did again: apparently both writing and doctor-ing are both full-brain activities.

Montreal as a Fifth Character | Lionel-Groulx Metro Station, p.121: Araceli and Adrien are reunited here after having spent years apart. | Lachine Canal, p. 122: Adrien and Araceli take a walk here before stopping in at Atwater Market to buy food for dinner. | Atwater Market, multiple appearances: selling fresh and delicious fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses to novel characters and Montrealers alike. | Apartments on des Érables, p. 22: The Plateau street Adrien lived on. 

Creative Process, Part 1 | As a writer, I am often inspired by what I read. For this novel, The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner), The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe), Invisible Cities (Calvino), and Coming Through Slaughter (Ondaatje) were at the forefront of my mind, either because of their content (what do you do with a love that is unrequited, or otherwise impossible/unsustainable?) or their form (written in short, episodic, poetic scenes).

Creative Process, Part 2: Writing in Pieces | Often, lines, phrases, and plot points would occur to me while reading something completely unrelated (in this case, Toni Morrison’s Jazz), and I would jot the idea down in the margin. | Experimenting with the order of the novel’s episodes. | While my edits/writing are overwhelmingly done directly on my computer, occasionally I would do things the old-fashioned way.

A former journalist and current paediatrician, Bindu Suresh is the author of short stories that have appeared in various literary publications. She studied literature at Columbia University and medicine at McGill University. Born in Wales, she grew up in Canada and has spent equal parts of her life in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. She currently lives in Montreal. 26 Knots is her first novel. Follow Bindu on Twitter at @atbindusuresh.

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