Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
group ('race'), the implications of which seem also to imply, as does the
subtitle 'récit du Canada français,' that the reader is of a different ethnic
group, a supposition soon confirmed by the presence of the women as
they would appear to an outsider: 'Un étranger se fût étonné de les
trouver presque élégantes au coeur de ce pays sauvage, si typiquement
françaises parmi les grands bois désolés et la neige.' (23; A foreigner
would have been astounded to find them almost elegant in the heart of
this wild land, so typically French amidst the large desolate woods and
the snow.) Indeed, the entire book is seeded with expressions like 'race'
and 'au pays de Québec,' whose illustration and defence the narrator
readily and relentlessly undertakes, ultimately to the detriment of the
continental French.
In this opening passage, the cultural place of the church seems dwarfed
('petitesse') by the surrounding wilderness, but the religious phrase at
the outset, the church's position at the centre of the composition, and its
function as a gathering place for the community, with its 'invincible al-
légresse,' serve to counterbalance the threat of the wilderness.
Not surprisingly for landscape painters, Suzor-Coté, Gagnon, and
Lemieux all chose to depict this highly visual opening scene in their
illustrations of the novel. In 1916, Suzor-Coté did twenty-five original
black and white drawings, which were reproduced in considerably
reduced form in the topic, including this initial one, Ite missa est (fig-
ure 6.1). 4
Suzor-Coté chooses a relatively close viewpoint, like that of the final
part of the novel's initial paragraph, allowing him to concentrate on the
church-goers' activities, and in fact, eighteen of his drawings for the
novel are portraits or genre scenes. Here, the stone facade of the church,
rendered through a grid of intricate and ordered lines, is displayed
fully by falsifying the perspective, which then serves to set off the pa-
rishioners (Lacroix, Suzor-Coté: Light , 249). The dark tone of the church
is offset by the mass of snow on its roof and on the ground to the left,
while the open view to the right leads the eye through the village and
towards the snowy landscape and menacing sky in the background,
where the vigour of Suzor-Coté's drawing in the foreground and mid-
dle ground is matched by the 'dramatic strokes of the background'
(Thom, 14). Thom concludes of Suzor-Coté's set of illustrations that 'his
images suggest rather than dictate to us. Information is provided, but
not so much so that our imaginations are impeded. The drawings are,
in short, admirably suited to the task of illustration. They complement
rather than overwhelm Hémon's narrative' (20). 5
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