31 August 2014

Jacques Poulin: Le Chat sauvage (1998)

Things seem to be in their place in this ninth novel of Jacques Poulin's: it's set in Vieux-Québec, a cat on the cover, there's a writer (albeit for other people) called Jack who has a (this time relatively new) Volskwagen minibus, there's a mysterious young girl, and there's a search. Hemingway's mentioned of course, although I started to wonder if the title 'the Modiano of Québec city' isn't appropriate for Poulin, although I think he'd have to make a much better effort than with this part-detective story to earn such a title.

Jack lives with Kim although she needs she own space, and they're well both beyond their youth but their ages are only vaguely hinted at. Jack is an 'écrivain public', or public letter-writer, which means he writes people's CVs, speeches, even love letters, etc; and Kim is a kind of psychotherapist who sees clients at all times of the day.

The story proper begins when a Vieil Homme – an Old Man whose name is Sam Miller, although it's hardly used at all – visits Jack because he wants to write to his estranged wife to get her to come back to him. Jack and Kim's cat interrupts the proceedings and the man leaves without further ado.

But Jack's curiosity is aroused, and he stalks down the identity of the man, discovering his name, address, and that he's a calèche driver, showing tourists and lovers round Vieux-Québec. The man returns several times and Jack writes him a few letters, and the man says his wife has replied to the second letter, saying she'll return at some unspecified date in the future. The man refuses to let Jack send the letter to the woman's address.

After one visit Jack follows the man, who meets Macha, a young girl sleeping rough who Jack's had a few brushes with, and who is a keen reader – a little like la Grande Sauterelle in Volkswagen Blues, who also has a way of procuring books without paying. It's le Vieil Homme's son's partner who calls Macha a 'wild cat'.

Eventually, Jack realises that the man's wife doesn't exist, and that the letters are in fact addressed to death, which the Vieil Homme thinks about a lot.

And as for Macha – well, she fascinates Kim, who goes away with her for several days and comes back and snuggles up in bed with Macha, who now seems more like a tame kitten than a wild cat. This, Jack feels, just means he has to pack his suitcase in preparation to leave.

It seems an odd end to the book, almost as if Poulin couldn't decide how to conclude it in a satisfactory manner, but odder still is that I can see no clearing up of the relationship between le Vieil Homme and Macha: what exactly did they have to do with each other? And how were we expected to believe that the man's 'wife' wouldn't have recognised that the letters were in a different person's hand? I'm pleased that this isn't the first Jacques Poulin book I've read, as I think I'd have been disinclined to read any more of them.

30 August 2014

Jacques Poulin: Le Vieux Chagrin (1989)

Le Vieux Chagrin (VC) being a novel by Jacques Poulin, there are a number of prominent similarities between Volkswagen Blues (VB) and Tournée d'automne (TA), the other books of his I've read: a forty-year-old writer who drives a Volkswagen (Jack in VB and – as a minor character – Jack in TA); Ernest Hemingway (VB and to a lesser extent TA); cats (VB and TA), the past (VB and TA); search (VB), etc.

The principal cat in Le Vieux Chagrin is the narrator's pet Chagrin, the Mr. Blue of the eponymous translation title, who frequently appears in the book (sometimes with other cats), but has no part in the central story.

The narrator is staying in his childhood home by the Saint-Laurent river and becomes interested, to the point of obsession, in a woman on the coast who has arrived in a sailing boat and seems to be partly dwelling in a nearby cave, where she is reading One Thousand and One Nights and has insccribed the name 'Marie K' on the flyleaf, leading the narrator (occasionally called Jim) to call her Marika.

Leaving messages for the woman to call on him brings the character Bungalow into the story, although she has no information about her: Bungalow has left her husband to set up a kind of refuge for women in nearby Québec city. Through Bungalow the teenaged la Petite, a victim of (unstated) abuse by her step-father, comes into the story, and she often stays at Jim's house, loving the cats and other animals that frequent the area.

The writer's main influence is Hemingway, although he's suffering from writer's block with his love story: he incorporates (by factual distortion) people he's known in his life into the story, although he feels that he hasn't loved anyone, including the wife he's divorced from.

Jim comes to realise, or at least to imagine, that he's in love with Marika and decides to visit the cave again. But the sailing boat has gone, her possessions (including the book) have gone, and he knows he will never see her again. In fact, he seriously wonders if she ever existed, and wonders if she wasn't simply a projection of his female self.

This relates to the narrator (a former teacher) speaking to la Petite about Hemingway's story title 'Big Two-Hearted River', and he asks her what 'two-hearted' can mean. As an example, she tells her a story from A. E. Hotchner's Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir (1955), in which Hemingway told of a white owl he shot, but which only had a wounded wing: he nursed the animal, fed it, brought it back to health and tamed and befriended it. From this story, la Petite comes to see the masculine and the feminine sides of Hemingway.

The narrator towards the end states that he has never mentioned to anyone his 'naive ambition', his 'enormous and ridiculous' secret of creating through literature a new world without war or other violence, no competition or hostility to others, everything working towards the service of love. Well, I can understand why he keeps his vision a secret, but at least his actions show his intentions, and his last action of adopting la Petite (whose search for her parents has been somewhat negative) is evidence of it: it's not official, he just writes it, signs it and puts it in an envelope. La Petite seals it and stores it away, watched both by the emotionally moved man – and the cats.

29 August 2014

Gabrielle Roy: Bonheur d'occasion | The Tin Flute (1945)

Gabrielle Roy's Bonheur d'occasion is an important work in the history of the literature of Québec, although the cover of this Stanké edition makes it look like a Mills & Boon type of read. Which it certainly isn't anything like.

The novel is set in the working-class suburb of Saint-Henri in Montréal during the war, where for most men the choice is to sign up for World War II – and fight for countries many can't even place on a map – or stay at home where the depression means they'll probably be unemployed and live a hand-to-mouth existence.

Central to the story is the Lacasse family: the mother is pregnant and has had eleven previous pregnancies, eight children having survived; the father Azarius is full of grand plans for making money, but these plans don't prove successful; and Florentine, who works in a working-class restaurant, provides much of the family's financial support.

Then Jean Lévesque, whose parents died in an accident when he was very young and who spent some time in an orphanage, comes along. He works as a mechanic and intends to become an engineer: for him, there is a third way beyond the starve-or-fight dilemma. Initially Jean shows an attraction to Florentine – who is a mixture of social naivety and natural survival techniques – although this turns to pity. And when she invites him to her home – the rest of her family being away on another of Azarius's moneymaking schemes – he is traumatised: here, he sees the poverty he has escaped from, but he also feels sexual temptation. Although the language is extremely coy and although Florentine is strongly attracted to him, it would be difficult not to interpret what follows as an act of rape.

Shortly afterwards Jean leaves to work in a munitions factory. He had previously introduced Florentine to Emmanuel, a soldier from a wealthier background to Florentine's who has enlisted to break free from the mental and physical prison his unemployed former schoolfriends are in in Saint-Henri and, he feels, become a man(!). He is strongly attracted to Florentine but can only see her during the brief periods when he is on leave. Although Florentine doesn't love him, a hasty marriage will prevent the opprobrium an out-of-wedlock pregnancy will bring, and the change of circumstances will provide Florentine with an escape from poverty.

But as Emmanuel takes the train back to fight with the other soldiers, he refuses to accept simplistic jingoistic ideologies, and can no longer understand the reason for going, for leaving his wife.

Bonheur d'occasion was Gabrielle Roy's first novel, for which she was awarded the prix Femina in 1947. And I still find the English translation of the title – The Tin Flute – an awful one: I repeat, whatever is wrong with the literal 'Second-hand Happiness'?

Below is my link to the Saint-Henri métro station sculpture:

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Julien Hébert's Bonheur d'occasion

26 August 2014

Marie-Sissi Labrèche: Borderline (2000)

Marie-Sissi Labrèche's first novel, Borderline, is a work of Québécois autofiction and a paragraph on the back cover clarifies the title a little:

'Je suis borderline. J’ai un problème de limites. Je ne fais pas de différence entre l’extérieur et l’intérieur. C’est à cause de ma peau qui est à l’envers. C’est à cause de mes nerfs qui sont à fleur de peau. Tout le monde peut voir à l’intérieur de moi, j’ai l’impression. Je suis transparente. D’ailleurs, tellement transparente qu’il faut que je crie pour qu’on me voie.'

'I am borderline. I have a problem with boundaries. I make no distinction between exterior and interior. It's because my skin is inside out. It's because I'm a bundle of nerves. I'm under the impression that everyone can see inside me. I'm transparent, so transparent that I have to shout out so people can see me.' (My translation.)

Sissi is largely brought up by her grandmother as her mother is schizophrenic, and kills herself by taking an overdose when her daughter is eleven. But her grandmother is a very poor mother substitute:  when she misbehaves when she is four years old, there are no threats of the bogeyman but of the serial killer.

Her grandmother has come out with so many idiocies that have 'completely fucked my head in [m'ont complètement fucké l'esprit] to such an extent that I feel like an asshole. That's why I'm frightened of everything now: others; public places; enclosed spaces [...]' and the list of fears, which gets crazier as it goes along, continues for almost a page.

Unsurprisingly, Sissi grows up with no sense of identity, no markers, no framework, nothing and no one to cling to. The essential borderline is between her sanity and her madness.

Chapters alternate between Sissi the child and Sissi the young adult. At school she is almost friendless, the other children being aware of her situation and making fun of the way she speaks. As a young adult she screws virtually everyone in her circle, experiments with lesbianism, and in her mid-twenties gets hopelessly drunk at her own birthday party, where she strips naked and starts masturbating on the floor. Câlice, she's an awful mess.

25 August 2014

Jacques Poulin: La Tournée d'automne | Autumn Rounds (1993)

In Tiphaine Samoyault's article 'Référence et post-modernité : Jacques Poulin' (Littérature 113 (March 1999), pp. 15–23), she draws attention to an interesting idea that la Grande Sauterelle has in Volkswagen Blues: that a book is never complete in itself, that it has to be seen in relation to other books, and not only those by the same author. What is generally believed to be a book is frequently in reality merely part of a vast picture that others have worked on without knowing.

And not only books may be involved in the bigger picture. Samoyault is interested in intertextuality, and in Volkswagen Blues finds references to forty-four books, two films, three maps, three paintings, nine songs and six newspapers. And the references continue in Poulin's La Tournée d'automne: forty books, fourteen songs, one film, one newspaper and a radio programme.

Culture is very important in La Tournée d'automne, as it provides the glue that brings together the Québécois mobile library employee le Chauffeur (who is never named) and Marie, who has come to Québec city on a temporary basis with a group of travelling entertainers. Le Chauffeur and Marie are both (to take the cue from the book title) in the autumn of their life, both unattached, in need of a soulmate and – probably most important of all – both are in love with books, for which they share much the same tastes.

Le Chauffeur lives in Vieux-Québec near Château Frontenac, and in fact meets Marie as she stands one evening by a railing near the castle by the funicular entrance. He returns to see her with the troupe and talks and walks with her, becoming quietly obsessed with her, as she is with him. One night when they can't sleep he takes her for a ride in his bibliobus over the bridge to and around l'Île d'Orléans, where, as Marie remarks, Félix Leclerc used to live.

And later, when le Chauffeur has to do his summer round of the Côte-Nord, the entertainers decide to follow his route in an old school bus, stopping off at various points to entertain the inhabitants of villages and small towns, making good takings. It's an opportunity for two (very subtly) budding lovers to meet and talk and discover even very similar they are in cultural tastes, even how they use the same words and expressions. (Although, right up to the end, they continue – like Jack and la Grande Sauterelle – to address each other by the polite, rather distancing form of 'vous'.)

And as with Volkswagen Blues, this is very much a road novel: detailed observations are made about the itinerary, the various stops made along the Côte-Nord, and then – when Marie leaves the entertainers to fly back to France, le Chauffeur taking her to the airport, the novel details the continued journey and considerable detour le Chauffeur takes (during which the relationship is finally consummated) as they drive to Godbout, take the ferry to Matane, and go around the head of the Gaspésie peninsula. For a person unfamiliar with the route taken, I'd advise that this delightful book be read with a map to trace it.

But rather than Montréal airport it's just back to Québec, as that's where the journey and the book end. And not – as some readers might have thought – with le Chauffeur killing himself by using the pipe he carries in his glove compartment to attach to the exhaust pipe – but by him asking Marie if she'll join him on the autumn round. And she asks 'Pour le meilleur et pour le pire?' ('For better and for worse?), which veers a little too close to the sentimental for comfort, but the reader is at least happy that le Chauffeur has re-discovered a reason to live, that he'll be doing his autumn round after all, and that he'll have a companion to help feed all the cats they meet on the way.

I just can't understand why for the English translation the decision was made to pluralise the title, as so much hinges on the existence of the one coming autumn round – there's even a prominent allusion to it on the back cover of the above edition.

23 August 2014

Jacques Poulin: Volkswagen Blues (1984)

I first read this novel several years ago and found it slightly strange. And although on second reading I certainly find it far less strange, it's interesting that one of the two central characters in it says that people would see both of them as mad if they were expected to believe this story of a chase across two thirds of America following the thinnest and most unlikely leads to find a lost brother.

This is what la Grande Sauterelle (or The Big Grasshopper, called so because of her long legs) states towards the end of this enthralling book, which is only thirty years old but in some ways comes from a very different era. Hitch-hiking drives the narrative: dormobile driver Jack Waterman (a writer) picks up hitch-hiker la Grande Sauterelle and her pet kitten just outside Gaspé in Québec province, and largely through her intuition and psychological skills they come to discover vital snippets about Jack's brother Théo, a man he's searching for after ten or fifteen years because, well, it feels as if his life is collapsing and he needs something to keep him steady. Then (again towards the end) they pick up another hitch-hiker, an old man who finds odd jobs where he can and whose intuition leads Jack to his brother; Jack tells la Grande Sauterelle that the old man thinks he's Hemingway as he says he used to live in rue du Cardinal Lemoine in Paris, he's been to Cuba several times, he loves Key West, and the only house he has had was in Ketchum, Idaho: just a few of a number of references to writers that Poulin seems compelled to mention.

Today the drive wouldn't just not have happened because almost no one hitches anymore, but people merely have to turn to the internet to get information about people they're looking for. But a long road trip (and there are a few mentions of Kerouac in passing) is of course sexier, especially if you're a guy of forty by chance spending the summer with a beautiful half-Indian girl half your age, cuddling up at night in the sleeping bag with her – but then, there's virtually no mention of sex here, the only real occasion being when they hit the continental divide and la Grande Sauterelle strips naked ready for a sexy celebration with Jack, who can only respond by ejaculating prematurely.

Jack (usually just referred to as 'l'homme') doesn't exactly come over as fulfilling traditional masculine functions in this refreshingly feminist-leaning male-written novel in which la Grande Sauterelle not only has the brain power and the sex drive, but she's also pretty useful with a toolbox when the Volks breaks down and Jack is reduced to wiping the sweat from her brow as she works away. So it's perhaps not too surprising that he leaves her with the Volks in San Francisco and flies back to Québec in the end.

Are there any other messages here? Well, it's not necessarily too good an idea to go chasing across the continent after a long-lost brother who may turn out (as Théo does) to have 'creeping paralysis' and doesn't even recognise you when you finally find him. Oh, and Jack thinks that to hook a person into a book you have to start with a brilliant opening sentence: this book opens with 'Il fut réveillé par le miaulement d'un chat' ('He was awakened by the miaowing of a cat.')

I loved the book.

22 August 2014

Alphonse Desjardins in Lévis, Québec

Alphonse Desjardins (1854–1920) was born in Lévis, Québec. He began a career in journalism, working for L'Écho de Lévis from 1872 to 1876, then spent three years with Le Canadien before eleven years editing discussions for the Legislative Assembly (now the National Assembly) of Québec. Then at thirty-five he founded the daily newspaper L'Union Canadienne, which only lasted three months.

But Desjardins is most known as the founder, with his wife Dorimène, of the first credit union (caisse populaire) in North America, which began in 1901 at his home in Lévis. In the years before this, Desjardins had been concerned with small borrowers' lack of access to banks and their vulnerability to usurers. He discovered Henry William Wolff's book People's Banks (1893), got in contact with him, and through Wolff established contact with European directors of credit cooperatives.

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins (the one on the left here) is now a museum dedicated to Desjardin's life and work. Entrance is via the house on the right, which is full of information about the man.

'Sculpture d'Alphonse Desjardins en noyer cendré, realisée en 1990 
par Benoi Deschênes.

Don de Richard Fortin et de Lucie Bégin-Fortin, de Noble-Art, à la Société historique Alphonse-Desjardins.

Sculpture of Alphonse Desjardins, in butternut, created by Benoi Deschênes in 1990.

Donated to Société historique Alphonse-Desjardins by Richard Fortin and Lucie Bégin-Fortin of Noble-Art.'

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins as represented in La Fresque Desjardins de Lévis.

The Mouvement des caisses Desjardins is the biggest group of credit unions in North America.

21 August 2014

Maison natale de Louis Fréchette, Lévis, Québec

Louis Fréchette  (1839–1908) was born here, at 4385 rue St Laurent, Lévis, where he spent his first thirteen years. A leaflet published in 2001 when the house was opened to the public describes it as a marriage of the neo-classical style and the New England architecture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

'Louis Fréchette naquit à Lévis. Polémiste et écrivain, député de Lévis à la Chambre des communes en 1874 à 1878, il s'établit à Montréal en 1876. Ses recueils de poèmes, Fleurs boréales et Oiseaux de Neige en firent le premier lauréat canadien de l'Académie française. Sa Légende d'un Peuple le consacra poète national. Il y ajouta Feuilles volantes où son art est plus recueilli. Il fut Greffier du Conseil législatif de Québec de 1889 à son décès, à Montréal.

Born at Lévis, Fréchette was a noted polemicist and a poet of some renown. He entered federal politics in 1871 and represented Lévis in the House of Commons (1874–8). Among his significant literary works are Les Fleurs Boréales and Les Oiseaux de Neige, collections of poems which, in 1880, were awarded the Prix Montyron by the French Academy; his epic Légende d'un Peuple; Feuilles volantes which strikes a more personal note; and a collected edition of his poems published posthumously in 1908. From 1889 until his death he served as Clerk of the Quebec Legislative Council. He died in Montréal.'

The north elevation.

The east elevation, facing the Saint Lawrence river.


Inside the house, with a portrait of Fréchette as both a young and an older man. The house is now a cultural centre, with many concerts being performed here. We received a very warm welcome here, for which we are very grateful.

In the town of Lévis itself is La Fresque Desjardins de Lévis, in which the Maison Fréchette can be clearly seen.

And there is also a representation of a young Fréchette reading.

My earlier post of Fréchette's grave in Montréal is here.

Samuel de Champlain on the Québec-Lévis ferry


The ferry from Québec to Lévis provides a good view of the city, Château Frontenac obviously taking pride of place. Of equal interest to me, though, were the backs of the benches that had several quotations from a French of some centuries ago, of which this is just one taken at random:

'& deſſus laditte montaigne eſt terre vunie & plaiſante à veoir'

These quotations are by Samuel de Champlain (1574–1635) from his Les Voyages de Samuel de Champlain au Canada de 1603 à 1618: Champlain was the founder of the then 'New France'.

Confucius in Québec city

'CONFUCIUS
555 av. J.-C. – 479 av.J.-C.

Philosophe et grand éducateur de la Chine, Confucius est né
dans l'État de Lu, aujourd'hui la ville de Qufu, au Shandong,
lors de la période de Printemps et de l'Automne.
Son enseignement a marqué la civilisation chinoise
et donné naissance au Confucionisme.

Cette statue constitue un témoignage d'amitié, de fraternité
et de compréhension du peuple du Shandong à l'égard
du peuple du Québec.

Don du gouvernement de la province du Shandong, Chine.

Printemps 2009'

Gandhi in Québec city


'MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND
GANDHI
1869–1948
APÔTRE DE LA NON-VIOLENCE
ET PÈRE DE LA NATION INDIENNE,
IL DEMEURE UN MODÈLE
DE LIBERTÉ ET DE DÉMOCRATIE

"LA DÉMOCRATIE DEVRAIT
ASSURER AU PLUS FAIBLE
LES MÊMES OPPORTUNITÉS
QU'AU PLUS FORTS"

UN TÉMOIGNAGE D'AMITIÉ, DE FRATERNITÉ ET
DE COMPRÉHENSION DU PEUPLE DE L'INDE
À L'ÉGARD DU PEUPLE DU QUÉBEC

LE 2 NOVEMBRE 2006'

'Democracy should ensure that the weakest have the same opportunities as the strongest'. Ah, yes, if only.

This is a link to Fredda Brilliant's Gandhi.

Octave Crémazie in Québec city

'LA SOCIÉTÉ DES POÈTES A FAIT
POSER CETTE PLAQUETTE EN 1932
SUR LA MAISON JADIS OCCUPÉE
PAR LA LIBRAIRIE CRÉMAZIE'

A likeness of the head, along with dates of the poet Octave Cremazie (1827–79), are on this plaque erected in 1932 to indicate that Crémazie's bookshop was here on rue de la Fabrique.

And on La Fresque des Québécois, a huge mural in Vieux-Québec, is a representation of Crémazie's bookshop, which among other things, is selling François Ricard's biography Gabrielle Roy: une vie (1972):


20 August 2014

François-Xavier Garneau in Québec city

A major figure in the history of the literature of Québec, François-Xavier Garneau (1809–66) is most noted for his colossal three-volume Histoire du Canada depuis sa découverte jusqu'à nos jours (1845–48). He was also a poet and a journalist.


Just off the Grande Allée is an impressive statue of him, quill pen in hand, and in the heart of Vieux Québec:


'MAISON
FRANÇOIS-XAVIER GARNEAU
1862
MONUMENT HISTORIQUE'

'EN CETTE MAISON
RÉSIDA PLUSIEURS
ANNÉES, ET MOURUT, LE
3 FÉVRIER 1866,
FRANÇOIS-XAVIER
GARNEAU, L'HISTORIEN
DU CANADA.'
––––––––––
IN THIS HOUSE,
FRANÇOIS-XAVIER
GARNEAU, THE HISTORIAN
OF CANADA, LIVED FOR
SEVERAL YEARS AND HERE
HE DIED ON THE 3rd. OF
FEBRUARY, 1866.'

The town of Québec granted Garneau a pension in 1863, and he died overwhelmed by epilepsy three years later.

ADDENDUM: A representation of Garneau on La Fresque des Québécois:

The Busts of writers on rue d'Auteuil, Québec city

On the rue d'Auteuil in Québec city are a series of monuments to writers, installed there at different periods of the present century. The busts of Pushkin and Nelligan testify to the friendship between Saint Petersburg and Québec city.


Émile Nelligan (1879–1941), about whom I made a post here.

The bust contains a sonnet in which it is (quite possibly incorrectly) dated as 1899, the same year of Nelligan's entry into a mental hospital. The poem tells of a golden ship being wrecked, although of course it is really Nelligan himself who is mentally wrecked.

'Le Vaisseau d'or

C'était un grand Vaisseau taillé dans l'or massif.

Ses mâts touchaient l'azur sur des mers inconnues;
La Cyprine d'amour, cheveux épars, chairs nues,
S'étalait à sa proue, au soleil excessif.

Mais il vint une nuit frapper le grand écueil

Dans l'Océan trompeur où chantait la Sirène,
Et le naufrage horrible inclina sa carène
Aux profondeurs du Gouffre, immuable cercueil.

Ce fut un Vaisseau d'Or, dont les flancs diaphanes

Révélaient des trésors que les marins profanes,
Dégoùt, Haine et Névrose, entre eux ont disputés.

Que reste-t-il de lui dans la tempête brève ?

Qu'est devenu mon coeur, navire déserté ?
Hélas ! Il a sombré dans l'abîme du Rêve !'




Alexandre Pouchkine (Eng: Pushkin) (1799-1837).

'Mon nom ? Mais qu’est-il donc pour toi ?
Il mourra, comme sur la grève
Meurt l’écho que le flot soulève;
Comme un bruit, la nuit, dans un bois.

C’est un signe incompréhensible

Que ton carnet aura gardé,
Tel, sur une tombe, gravé,
Un grimoire en langue illisible.

Mon nom ? Tu l’auras oublié

Dans les remous, les aventures.
Sur ton âme il n’aura laissé
Aucune trace tendre ou pure.

Mais un jour triste, dis-le bien

À voix haute, avec nostalgie;
Tu diras : quelqu’un se souvient,
Un coœur où vit encore ma vie…'



Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)

'O lumière qui tant t'élève
au-dessus des pensées mortelles, reprête un peu
à mon esprit de ce que tu semblais
et rends ma langue si puisssante
qu'une étincelle de ta gloire
puisse arriver aux génerations futures'

Translation on the plinth of the bust from The Divine Comedy.




The poet and musical composer Komitas (1869–1935) is described here as the 'father and mother' of Armenian music, and notes that he scoured his country in order to save songs, dances and melodies from oblivion. The words below, an extact from Chant de l'émigré, are addressed to the crane bird, asking if it has news of their mutual country.

'Grue, d'où viens-tu ? Je suis l'esclave de ta voix !
Grue, n'as-tu pas une petite nouvelle de notre pays ?
Ne te presse pas, tu rejoindras bientôt ton essaim ;
grue, n'as-tu pas une petite nouvelle de notre pays ?'

The Confucian scholar and poet Nguyễn Trãi (1380–1442) was recognised by UNESCO as the person most representative of Vietnamese culture.


Taras Chevtchenko (1814–61), who was also named Schevchenko in English, was an important poet, a painter and a great supporter of Urkainian culture. The bust was erected in 2014 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Chevtchenko's birth.

'Que notre esprit, que notre chant
Ne meure, ni s'éteigne.
C'est là que réside notre gloire,
La Gloire de Ukraine !'

I also have a link to another monument of him in Paris here.

18 August 2014

The forty writers' poetical words on Michel Goulet's chairs, Québec city

At the Place de la Gare in Québec is a sculpture by Michel Goulet, consisting of a large number of chairs, forty of which contain poetical quotations from forty writers associated with Québec. It was presented by Montréal to Québec on the 400th anniversary of the capital of the province in 2008. The title is Rêver le nouveau monde: literally, Dreaming the New World. (Yes, after a number of days of glorious sunshine came more than a little rain.)

The sculpture begins with the world under one – and a house under another – chair.

'rêver le nouveau monde'

'Ce soir
Le monde est vieux
Et je m'ennuie

Ann HÉBERT
(1916–2000)'

'une acceptation de l'absence
un renoncement à l'explication
une connaissance du vertige
un bonheur de la rencontre

Madelaine GAGNON'

'j'attends de naître
pour répondre à tes lettres
j'attends tes lèvres pour parler

Kim DORÉ'

'Irving LAYTON
(1912–2006)

The hills
remind me
of you

Not because they curve soft and warm
lovely and firm

But because
a long time ago
you stared at them
as I am staring now'

'Heureux qui dans ses vers sait, d'une voix tonnante
Effrayer le méchant, le glacer d'épouvante ;
Qui, bien qu'avec gôut, se fait lire avec fruit,
Et, bien plus qu'il ne plaît, surprend, corrige, instruit.

Michel BIBAUD
(1782–1857)'

'Malgré l'effarement
Malgré la lassitude
Des voix s'arrachent
Y-a-t-il une façon simple
D'ouvrir lHistoire
D'assécher les bourbiers'

Louise COTNOIR'

'Vient le jour où la beauté
borde notre chemin.
On se penche sur la vie, et aussitôt
on se relève, le coeur tremblant,
plus fort d'une vérité ainsi effleurée.

Hélène DORION'

'Nous avons partagé nos ombres
Plus que nos lumières
Nous nous sommes montrés
Plus glorieux de nos blessures
Que des victoires éparses

Alain GRANDBOIS
(1900–1975)'

'Elle ferme les yeux et rerêve:
c'était avant l'invention de l'écriture

Yolande VILLEMAIRE '


'au bout de ce grand bout de terre
de peine et de misère
dis-moi
marie
pourquoi ce silence s'agrandit

Pierre PERRAULT
(1927–1999)'

'Mon désir parfois

ressemble aux dernières phrases
d'un livre
les livres n'ont pas de fin
les livres s'arrêtent

Normand DE BELLEFEUILLE'

'Le Cap Éternité

Témoin pétrifié des premiers jours du monde,
Il était sous le ciel avant l'humanité.

Charles GILL
(1871–1918)'


'Je dois tout dire dans une langue

qui n'est celle de ma mère.
C'est ça le voyage.

Dany LAFERRIÈRE'

'Toutes couleurs effacées.
Tous parfums supprimés,
Toutes paroles étouffées;

Muet et blanc,

Intolerable blanc,
Ce pays ne retient
Que les éclats du sang.

Gatien LAPOINTE
(1931–1984)'

'ne touchons pas au silence
il est notre réserve d'espoir

Nicole BROISSARD'
'Le monde ne vous attend plus
il a pris le large
le monde ne vous entend plus
l'avenir lui parle

Gaston MIRON
(1928–1996)'

'Sous le manteau de la prudence
qu'on prend parfois pour la sagesse,
on reconnaît souvent la peur.

Gilles VIGNEAULT'

'J'aimerais rester dans l'ombre
dans ton ombre familière
le temps d'un hiver au moins
sinon d'une vie entière.

Roland GIGUÈRE
(1929–2003)'
'Dans les yeux s'allume une ville,
qu'on n'a jamais pris la peine de visiter.

Louise DUPRÉ'

'Le plus difficile c'est le premier siècle.
Rendu à trois, la racine est profonde.
Voilà ce que chantent les enfants

été

Félix LECLERC
(1914–1988)'

'Tu me manque
De toujours
Tu es l'ombre de l'Absente
Tu es ce passé sans toi.

Jean ROYER'

'Il est sur le sol d'Amérique
Un doux pays aimé des cieux,
Où la nature magnifique
Prodigue ses dons merveilleux.

Octave CRÉMAZIE
(1827–1879)'

'Nous écrivons
dans la grande noirceur
d'un siècle qui siffle
en s'écroulant.

Nous écrivons
en guise d'accompagnement
de la terre.

Paul Chanel MALENFANT'

'...
veaux vaches cochons couvées
et préoccupations fi de vous et fi d'elles
à mon pays seul je suis fidèle

Gérard GODIN
(1938–1994)'

'Un enfant est en train de bâtir un village
C'est une ville, un comté
Et qui sait
Tantôt l'univers.

Il joue

Hector de Saint-Denys GARNEAU
(1912–1943)'

'La Mer navigue/
La Terre marche/
Le Ciel vole/

et moi, je rampe pour humer la vie...

Rita MESTOKOSHO'

'Je n'ai pas appris de Poucet
Le secret de marquer la route
Qui reconduise où l'on passait.

Alfred DESROCHERS
(1901–1978)'

This piece, concerning the sound of the Aurora Borealis, is written in Inuktitut by Emily Novalinga, who died the year after the artwork was created.

'Tu es la ville engloutie
sous les rumeurs pourtant je vois
il n'y a que toi parlant
et la passion que tu y mets

Hugues CORRIVEAU'

'Le travail n'est pas liberté
Le travail es dans la liberté

Claude GAUVREAU
(1925–1971)'

'L'homme...

Il se construit
Des milliers
Des millions
De milles
De câble blond

Et il leur a donné
Des millions
De milliers
De nœuds

Pour attacher la mer

Cécile CLOUTIER'

'Pleurez, oiseaux de février.
Au sinistre frisson des choses,
Pleurez, oiseaux de février,
Pleurez mes pleurs, pleurez mes roses,
Aux branches du genévrier.

Émile NELLIGAN
(1879–1941)'

'La nuit est une neige
qui tombe à l'envers.

Jean-Paul DAOUST'

'Il ne sait plus si sa propre mémoire
le garde vivant, si ses rêves
le nourisssent ou le dévastent.

Pierre NEPVEU'

'Je traversais sa nuit
et j'en rêvais le jour
je ne sais plus ce soir où va
la poésie
mais je sais qu'elle voyage
rebelle analogique

Claude BEAUSOLEIL'

'Petit jardin que j'ai planté,
Que ton enceinte sait me plaire !

Joseph QUESNEL
(1746–1806)'

'Hold me close
and tell me what the world is like
I don't want to look outside
I want to depend on your eyes
and your lips

Leonard COHEN'

'Seulement près de toy en cette saison dure.

Marc LESCARBOT
(1570–1642)'

'Chacun se débrouille seul
à rafistoler des bouts de rêves.

La table est mise.
Voyez. Venez.

Paul CHAMBERLAND'

'Là où ses petites histoires,
mine de rien, s'emboîtent
les unes dans les autres.

Denise DESAUTELS'

At the end of all this is a two-paragraph description of the work by Michel Goulet:

'Pour ce quatre centiéme,
quarante chaises domestiques
créent un parcours
dans l'espace, le temps
et les pensées furtives.
Quarante voix poétiques disent,
le temps d'une pause, ce que nous
avons été, ce que nous sommes
et le bonheur de la rencontre.

Ici pas seulement des
spectateurs sollicités mais des
personnes qui prennent part
activement à la construction
d'un rêve en y jouant un rôle
essentiel, en faisant le trajet d'un
point à un  autre, de la representation
géographique du fleuve qui
lie deux pôles du pays et l'ouvre
sur le monde et la représentation
de nos habitats fragiles, la Terre
et le domicile, ici, mis à l'abri.

M. Goulet, sculpteur'