Yves Lafond’s first book is titled Le boutte de la route: Chronique en Dix-Huit Roues. So it’s not a surprise to learn that the author has been driving his eighteen-wheeler on the Yukon’s Dempster Highway for a good 10 years!
“The inspiration, in large part, is the Dempster; that’s where I opened up to other ways of thinking,” says Lafond. “To be inspired, you have to do something.”
The trucking life is good for his writing practice. “For a long time, I told myself, come on, I have to stop, because I can’t seem to write,” says the writer originally from Quebec. “I was in business, but being in business takes all your time. Trucking, on the contrary, gives you a lot of time to think.”
Lafond had to adjust to the culture of the North. “For example, in Quebec, we talk a lot with our hands. But here, with the Indigenous people, especially women, you shouldn’t do that. They say: you are insulting me. But what, I’m telling you a story. You point a finger at me, you are attacking me, they say. So there, I have to rethink my fundamentals,” he says.
“The Indigenous Peoples, the people who have been here for over 10,000 years, have learned not to fight the elements. The land is the Mother, you know – we don’t fight the land, we work with it. You get there, and there’s an avalanche blocking the road. You’re not going to curse the mountain. So what do we do, how do we organize ourselves? That is the Indigenous way of thinking,” he explains.
“I am now in a place where you risk your life every day, and at the end of the day you do not know how things will end up. And yet, it seems that the people are more serene, the people don’t worry about things.”
In a journey that spans the land of the Gwich’in and the land of the Tlingit, why write in French, given that the language of communication is English?
“While writing, words that I used when I was a little boy come back to me,” says Lafond. “They are words that we no longer hear at all and that I love. Or expressions, you know. And that, I am not able to render in English.”
What is the common thread that binds these eighteen-wheeler chronicles? Lafond says, “Essentially, how I went from darkness – we always say that – from the sadness of being to joy through meeting people. We must accept our fate, and improve on it.”