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Involuntary Bliss


Even in death, he said, the novella’s power would bind us together, all of us who had read it, appealing as it did equally to our emotions and our intellects.

A bond between three friends forms over a mutual fascination with an obscure Peruvian novella and is fractured by an accidental death. From the streets of Montreal's Plateau and Latin Quarter to the ruins of Machu Picchu, award-winning author Devon Code's Involuntary Bliss traces this tragic affinity with dark humour and linguistic verve.

Over one hazy weekend in late August, an unnamed narrator visits his troubled friend James following a gap of many months. The two young men are set adrift in the city by way of James's memories, which flow out of him as lush set pieces—an affair, a stint volunteering at a children's hospital, a striptease show—assembling a picture of James's haunted life in the wake of their close friend's death.

By turns comic, erotic, tender and harrowing, this freewheeling narrative sees Montreal's bohemians and biker gangs entwine with psychotropic shamanic practices in the mountains of Peru, in a tale of friendship and mortality as unpredictable as it is true to life.


A wry elegy for youth and a melancholy ode to Montreal. Almost as disquieting as it is entertaining, Involuntary Bliss is a literary derangement of the senses and an elegant addition to the current stream of coming-of-age fiction. —Mike Steeves, author of Giving Up

"Involuntary Bliss is the right kind of coming-of-age-as-an-artist novel in that it's wry, dark, and mercifully self-aware. Even when he literally lets us admire his impressive scaffolding, Code remains a natural storyteller with a clear, urgent voice. This is a sophisticated and impressive debut." &mdashJonathan Bennett, author of The Colonial Hotel and Entitlement

"How does one create urgency and profound emotional attachment in a novel about two characters conversing as they wander around Montreal? By writing one beautiful, brilliant sentence after another. By constructing an essential, inimitable spiral of narrative encoded, like DNA, with a particular life. Devon Code is up to the job: Involuntary Bliss is a marvel." —Alissa York, author of The Naturalist


Devon Code is the award-winning author of fiction, short stories, and critical reviews. In a Mist, Code's first collection of short stories, was longlisted for the 2008 ReLit Award and was included on The Globe and Mail’s "Best Books" list. In 2010, Code was the recipient of the Journey Prize for his story "Uncle Oscar." His reviews of literary fiction have appeared in The Globe and Mail, National Post, Quill & Quire, and Canadian Notes & Queries. Originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Code lives in Peterborough, Ontario. Involuntary Bliss is Code's first novel.

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