Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
entities, from objects and human figures to natural spaces and cultural
places, into a unified yet dynamic whole; that is, an image. Consider, for
example, Clarence Gagnon's Crépuscule sur la Côte-Nord , 1924 (plate 1).
Here, instead of retreating into the background, the land mass of the
north coast, the very emblem of wilderness, is brought forward towards
the village, itself on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River, by an
elevated viewpoint, which flattens space, and by the intensity of colour
and sharpness of focus, which negate notions of perspective and dis-
tance. From its proximate position on the frontal plane, the north coast
is juxtaposed yet harmonized with the farm buildings through the uni-
form lighting of twilight, the repetition of the colour blue, and the
ragged line of houses matching that of the mountain range. The pre-
carious position of the settlement, perched between the rugged shore-
line and the rocky terrain in the foreground, perhaps suggests, as it
does in so many examples from Quebec fiction (including works illus-
trated by Gagnon, as we see in chapter six), the fragility of civilization,
while the looming north coast represents the ever-present danger yet
lure of the wilderness: 'patrie de l'imaginaire, porteur des mythes les
plus fous' (36; land of the imaginary, bearer of the wildest myths), as the
film-maker Bruno Boulianne puts it in his essay 'L'appel du Nord.' 12
The struggle of competing elements - culture and nature - seems to
have reached, here, for the moment, an entente cordiale where both
coexist peacefully in a state of dynamic interplay.
Landscape Representation
Following this introduction, a series of ten chapters traces the evolution
of landscape representation in Quebec from the writings of its earliest
explorers to a song, a short story, and a collection of novellas by three of
its most popular current authors; in all cases major literary works are
paired with prominent paintings on the basis of period, topic, tech-
nique, and often direct influence (illustrations). 13 The conclusion brings
together the most recurrent images (such as the garden and the tree)
and the themes they generate (like paradise lost) in order to return to
the elusive issue of national identity, the pursuit of which few nations
have engaged in more persistently than has Quebec. My main conten-
tion in this topic is that this arduous and ardent quest for identity is
often, even primarily, staged within the landscape, where various sets
of contrasting icons, those representing nature and those embodying
culture(s), can be combined and juxtaposed in close proximity in the
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