1. Next Episode has a strong autobiographical
component. Like his narrator, Hubert Aquin fought for the
independence of Quebec and was arrested for carrying a firearm and
driving a stolen vehicle. After appearing in court, he was held for
several months in a psychiatric institute. While in the institute,
he wrote Next Episode. How do these facts affect your
interest in the novel? Do they alter the impact of the story?
2. What are different possible meanings of the title Next
Episode? How can they be related to the conclusion of the
3. The cover of Next Episode shows the well-known
painting by Benjamin West, "The Death of General Wolfe" (1770).
This painting is mentioned several times in the story (pp. 89, 90,
91). Why is this painting crucial to the meaning of the novel? In
what way does it give a historical dimension to the narrator's
4. In the first few lines of the novel, there are two references
to Cuba: "Cuba is sinking in flames [...]. Between the anniversary
of the Cuban revolution and the date of my trial..."
(p. 1). Why do you think that these references appear at the
beginning of the novel? What important theme do they highlight?
5. The narrator's spy story takes place in Switzerland. There
are many images of descent into Lake Leman and ascent towards the
mountains. How do these images reflect the narrator's emotional
6. In the spy story, the revolutionary agent finds a one-word
mysterious cryptogram of jumbled capital letters which he is unable
to decipher (p. 10). The source of the cryptogram is Vita
Romana by Enrico Paoli. Aquin uses seven of the fifteen
original Latin inscriptions designating various people to formulate
the cryptogram. In what way does this strange cryptogram add to the
mystery of the spy story? Why do you think that it cannot be
7. Why does the narrator give the counter-revolutionary enemy in
his novel three different names: Hamidou Diop, Carl von Ryndt and
H. De Heutz? What other characteristics of a spy novel can be found
in this story?
8. The narrator frequently writes about his feelings of
hopelessness and despair. What is the cause of his despair? In what
way is he trying to overcome it?
9. How would you describe the main character incarcerated in the
psychiatric institute? Is he a self-indulgent delusional man or an
idealist and a revolutionary who wants to liberate Quebec?
10. The narrator's main character, a Québécois revolutionary, is
unable to kill the enemy H. de Heutz. What parallel do you see
between this character and the narrator? Why are the themes of
audacity and powerlessness central to the novel?
11. "The only thing that's certain now is your secret name, your
warm, wet mouth, your amazing body I reinvent again and again with
less precision and more passion" (p. 4) writes the narrator about
his beloved, the blonde woman named K. How does this passionate
love story enrich the meaning of the novel? In what way does the
letter K link the narrator's love for a woman to his love for
12. How would you describe Aquin's style? Why does the action
move back and forth from Montreal to the Eastern Townships
to Switzerland? Why is the prose frequently feverish and dense?
13. "I am the fragmented symbol of Québec's revolution, its
fractured reflection and its suicidal incarceration" (p. 13) writes
the narrator of Next Episode. In what way does this
statement invoke both hope and despair?
14. "Writing is a great expression of love" (p. 45) says the
narrator. Why is writing such an important theme in this novel? In
what way is writing related to the narrator's desperate quest for
survival in the psychiatric institute, to his love for K and for an
15. In the last paragraph, the narrator writes: "When the
battles are done, the revolution will continue to unfold; only then
perhaps will I find the time to bring this book to a final stop and
to kill H. de Heutz once and for all" (pp.122-123). Why has the
narrator been unable to stage the murder of H. de Heutz? What does
this inability reflect?
16. "That's what I'll say in the final sentence of my novel.
And, a few lines later, I shall write in capital letters the words
: THE END." How do you interpret the ending of Next
Episode? Why is Aquin unable to finish the story?
17. What does Next Episode tell us about the desire for
change and independence in Québec in the 1960s? In what way does
the novel transcend the boundaries of Québec to express a
fundamental human need for self-determination?
18. Hubert Aquin was strongly influenced by some writers of
decolonization, especially Albert Memmi and Frantz Fanon. How is
this influence evident in the novel?
19. Next Episode is a novel of liberation and one of
the most important books written in Québec. It is bold and
innovative in style and content. It speaks eloquently and
passionately about love for a woman, for literature and for Québec.
Why should it be read by as many Canadians as possible?
About the reader''s guide author:
Janet Paterson is Chair of the Department of French at the
University of Toronto.
She is a specialist in Quebec literature who has written several
books, including a critical edition of Trou de mémoire in
L'édition critique de l'ouevre d'Hubert Aquin, Bibliothequè