Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter Eight
From Solitude to Solidarity:
La montagne secrète
One major consequence of the innovations staged by Borduas and
Riopelle (chapter seven) is, according to Louise Vigneault, the promo-
tion of the artist figure to the position of torchbearer in the quest for
identity, displacing the coureur de bois and the voyageur ( Identité ,
178, 314-5). Certainly, two major novels published at some interval
bear out this contention: Gabrielle Roy's La montagne secrète (1961) and
Anne Hébert's Le premier jardin (1988).
Roy's novel, La montagne secrète , is both dedicated to and based on
the life of her friend, the painter René Richard, who later did an illus-
trated edition of the novel (1975). The third-person narrator recounts
the voyages of a painter called simply Pierre - whose last name is not
revealed until the final pages, thereby reinforcing the overarching ques-
tions of identity and universality. The painter, whose perspective the
narrator usually espouses, has for some time been bent on discovering
the 'secret' of nature, art, others, and the self: 'Il y avait déjà dix ans
qu'il était en route pour chercher ce que le monde voulait de lui - ou lui
du monde.' (18; Already he had spent ten years on this road, seeking
what the world would have of him - or he of the world [12].) 1 As Pierre
wrestles with his identity and vocation, the reader quickly perceives
that he represents not only Gabrielle Roy herself, but also every artist,
every man. 2 The painter's quest takes him to three distant places, each
serving as setting for one of the novel's three parts: the Northwest
Territories (chapters 1-4); the Ungava region in northern Quebec (chap-
ters 10-16); and finally France (chapters 17-26). The location of the first
two parts in the 'far north' marks the culmination of a long-standing
fascination with the pays d'en haut that is a permanent part of the French-
Canadian psyche, as reflected in its art and ultimately, according to Jack
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