Huston, Nancy

Nancy Louise Huston, novelist, essayist (b at Calgary, Alta, 16 Sep 1953). Nancy Huston grew up in Calgary and Wilton, New Hampshire. In 1973, after attending Sarah Lawrence College, she moved to France, where she studied at the Université de Paris under Roland Barthes. Though Huston's previous knowledge of French was limited, she soon began to write primarily in that language and made Paris her home.

Huston's first novel, Les variations Goldberg (1981; trans The Goldberg Variations, 1996), features the interior monologues of 30 audience members at a performance of the Bach composition. It contains contemplations on creativity, gender, and control, explored further in later works.

The novel Plainsong (1993), in which Huston draws on her Alberta heritage, is one of her few works written originally in English. Huston later rewrote the novel as Cantiques des plaines (1993), for which she received the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD for French-language fiction. The selection of a non-francophone for this award was controversial; some considered the novel a translation, rather than an original work. She has since been shortlisted for the award on two other occasions: for Instruments des ténèbres (1996; Instruments of Darkness, 1997) and L'Empreinte de l'ange (1998; The Mark of the Angel, 1999). Huston has translated the better part of her work, including The Goldberg Variations and The Mark of the Angel, both nominated for Governor General's Awards for translation.

A frequent theme of Huston's non-fiction is that of self-imposed exile, as explored in Nord perdu : suivi de Douze France (1999, trans Losing North: Musings on Land, Tongue and Self, 2002). Lettres parisiennes: Autopsie de l'exil (1986), an exchange of letters with Algerian writer Leila Sebbar, is a conversation on creativity, identity and the expatriate experience.

Huston is married to the Bulgarian theorist Tzvetan Todorov, with whom she contributed text to Le chant du bocage (2005), a collection of photographs by Jean-Jacques Cournut. She is a chevalier of l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, and was made an officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 2005.