Travel Reference
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terre nouvelle. [76-7; Is it so difficult then to make a garden in the middle
of the forest and to surround it with a palisade like a treasure-trove? The
first man was called Louis Hébert, the first woman Marie Rollet. They
sowed the first garden with seeds that came from France. They laid out the
garden according to the notion of a garden, the memory of a garden, that
they carried in their heads, and it was almost indistinguishable from a
garden in France, flung into a forest in the New World. Carrots, lettuces,
leeks, cabbages, all in a straight line, in serried ranks along a taut cord,
amid the wild earth all around. When the apple tree brought here from
Acadia by Monsieur de Mons and transplanted finally yielded its fruit, it
became the first of all gardens in the world, with Adam and Eve standing
before the Tree. The whole history of the world was starting afresh be-
cause of a man and a woman planted in this new earth. (59-60)]
Replete with echoes of the novel's title ( Le premier jardin ) and rendered
in incantatory rhythm, the passage is recounted by a third-person nar-
rator, but the voices are clearly those of the main characters, Flora (an
aging actress) and Raphaël (a history student), which emerge through
free, indirect discourse, detectable, for instance, in the use of the present
tense, the casual expression ('then'), and the question mark in the first
sentence. The text is structured by a series of contrasts, primarily cul-
ture ('garden') and nature ('forest'), but also man and woman, and
France and the New World. This 'first garden,' a place that is enclosed
('with a fence') and ordered ('in tight ranks'), surrounded by vast and
menacing space ('within the wilderness all around'), and cast as a cul-
tural icon when compared to a 'treasure,' becomes a symbol of French
heritage through agriculture (seeds) and culture (memory) and indeed
of Western civilization when grafted onto the myth of the Garden of
Eden. Finally, humanity itself becomes part of the garden, as a man and
a woman are metaphorically 'planted' in a new world, a situation ap-
plicable not only to Adam and Eve, but also to Louis Hébert and Marie
Rollet (two of New France's first habitants in the early seventeenth cen-
tury), and especially to Flora and Raphaël as their story unfolds against
the background of their biblical and historical ancestors. The novel res-
onates on many levels, from the mythological, to the national, to the
personal, all involving the notions of natural and cultural origins.
In painting, techniques like centred composition, interlocking spaces,
grids of lines, geometrical forms, clusters of colour, and heavy texture
conspire to bring far ground into foreground, privileging the picture
plane, which is then mobilized to harmonize seemingly disparate visual
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