The Hairdressers’ Moon

During the 2000s, Michka finished her first and only book of linked stories, La Lune des coiffeurs (literally, The Hairdressers’ Moon). It will be published in 2019 in French only; it may one day be published in English. In the meantime, an English translation from the book jacket is presented below.

Locked in a root cellar for punishment, the narrator of The Hairdressers’ Moon discovers a forlorn notebook and a chewed-up pencil. A beam of moonlight illuminates the cellar, and she writes a story until dawn to calm her fears – to not be alone. A first act towards consolation through art.

The door creaks. The tiny yellow notebook throbs in the hollow of my shirt. I am ready.

If the story ended there, it would be touching, almost nice. Ready for what — to plunge into my own forbidden myths, to stretch across an entire life of night terrors and primal anxieties, to remain in a waking dream and become a full-time seamstress of these ragged memories?

Of course the story does not end there. Michka Saäl always pushed to the limit and beyond, regardless of consequences.

With her first short feature in 1989, Far from Where?, Michka Saäl seduced Quebec filmgoers with a soft and poetic voice that recalled a childhood in North Africa caught between the heat of the desert and the mysteries of the Sea, while enveloped by the images of snow and ice of her adopted country.

Thirty years after her first film, as if time has been suspended, this voice returns in her first book. The narrator of the film, her attempt at running away from home blocked by the Sea, succeeds in the book at crossing the ocean and finding her lost mother in France. She grows up, always searching for her place in the world, overwhelmed by her “new” Jewish identity. A second escape to Israel, a return to France and then to Canada, a refuge where she dreams of her roots. She confides: I am making up nothing, but my imagination belongs to me… I want to scrub my memories until they bleed.

Like her films, The Hairdressers’ Moon slides between fact and fiction, the present and the past. It insists on the importance of memory, and adopts art in all its forms as a user’s manual for living. Not surprising, then, that the book borrows freely from images, details, memories and stories from the life of Michka Saäl, and her films as well, both documentary and fiction. Knowledge of her films and her life might add further insight to the book, but ultimately will raise more questions than it answers. Which is what she would have wanted.

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