Longlisted for the 2022 DUBLIN Literary Award
A woman must emerge from the virtual world she’s created to confront her flesh-and-blood past and family.
Growing up with a menacing drunk for a father and a grief-stricken mother, a girl spends her 1980s childhood staring at the television to escape the tension, depression, and looming violence that fill her suburban home. After winning a modelling competition, she dedicates herself to becoming a placid image onto which anything can be projected, a blank slate with a blank stare. Earning enough in Paris to retire in her twenties, she buys a studio in Montreal and retreats from the world and its perceived threats, cultivating her existence as an image through her virtual reality avatar. But when her mother develops cancer and nears the end of her life, she is forced to leave her cocoon – surrounded by her posse of augmented reality superheroes – and interact with the world and her parents without the mask of her perfect, virtual self.
Georges offers up an alienated childhood with shifting pop culture obsessions, a woman’s awakening to the role of the image in culture, and her eventual isolation in her apartment and the world online. It is a catalogue of the anxieties of an age, from nuclear war to terrorism, climate change to biological warfare. Set in the past and not-too-distant future of Montreal, The Imago Stage is an ominous tale of oppression, suppression, and disembodiment.
"A thought-provoking meditation on our relationships with images and digital life." –Kirkus Reviews
"The Imago Stage is flat, intensely orchestrated, and nearly lifeless: essentially and purposefully so." –World Literature Today
"Here is an intoxicating novel, enigmatic and deeply troubling... a brilliant book, on our relationships to art, to bodies, and to contemporary technology, which assures us that images do indeed hold the power of seduction." –Dominique Janelle, Le Vif / L'express
"Karoline Georges doesn’t align herself with the vast community of techno-pessimists. Without slipping into utopianism, she sees technology’s exponential growth with clarity and curiosity... Virtual reality and artificial intelligence are words that do not scare her... With Karoline Georges, we go beyond obsession, beyond a will to please, or to seduce. We aim instead for pure disembodiment, we’re virtually in the realm of mysticism." –Chantal Guy, La Presse
"A lucid and provocative novel. Karoline Georges brilliantly breaks open our fascination for screens, for emoticon conversations, for beauty without imperfections, for eternal life." –Josée Boileau, Journal de Montréal
“In this singular story dedicated to the mother, the narrator creates an avatar to counter her distress. Karoline Georges succeeds in combining the real and the virtual around the complexity of family ties. The author approaches solitude and the representation of the body with astonishing lucidity. The Imago Stage transcends genres in intelligent and effective prose.” –Governor General's Literary Award Peer Review Committee
"Karoline Georges suggests that reality can be lived, forming a lasting image instead of the preserved, yet temporary image of the virtual." –Full Stop Magazine
"The only thing you have to sacrifice to achieve this blissful utopia is your humanity." –Quill & Quire
"This is truly an amazing book that can be enjoyed by anyone." –The Girly Book Club
"One of the greatest strengths of Georges’ novel is that she does not shy away from the narrator’s persistent discomfort and uneasiness in the resolution, and this is a profound insight to the process of resolving trauma." –Winnipeg Free Press
"Canadian writer Georges (Under the Stone) crafts a cerebral novel exploring the thin line between the real world and virtual reality. . . The result makes for an exhilarating and prescient ride through a woman’s lifelong drive toward disembodiment." –Publishers Weekly
"The Imago Stage is an unusual tale of healing and rebirth, in which the protagonist, Anouk, escapes from her traumatic childhood memory by immersing herself in images." –Asymtote