Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
distant roots [154]), but the very essence of his primitive self, 'l'élan
primitif de son âme' (123; a primitive surge of the soul [131]). 18 In a
sense this metaphorical thread stitches together the initial scene of the
solitary tree with this later one, both based on the juxtaposition of place
and space, culture and nature; thus interwoven, these thematic strands
constitute the very fabric of the novel and, perhaps, along with 'pure
laine,' that of the French-Canadian identity.
Sensing Pierre's fundamental incompatibility with the city and attach-
ment to nature, Meyrand sends him away from Paris and into the coun-
tryside, where Pierre finds himself again free and at one with the world.
His reflections on the power of art to resurrect places, such as Cézanne's
paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire (148), lead Pierre to reflect on his own
secret mountain, and to his question of whether he has immortalized his
own sacred place, he regrettably must respond in the negative.
Determined to continue the struggle, Pierre returns to Paris, where
he declines the opportunity to move into a vast, well-lit studio because
it simply doesn't it his previous manner of painting and existing: 'Il
s'était fait à cette loi du Nord: l'immensité au-dehors, au-dedans
l'exiguïté.' (150; He had shaped himself to this law of the North: vast
space outdoors; indoors kept small [161].) This 'law,' based on the jux-
taposition of a small, enclosed cultural place set against the vast space
of nature, governs not only Pierre's painting but also serves as a key to
Roy's fundamental conception of space - 'Le drame essentiel en moi se
trouve, je pense, dans un tiraillement entre le chez soi et l'infini.' (The
essential drama inside me involves, I think, a tug-of-war between the
home and the infinite.)19 19 If this 'drama' takes centre stage in Quebec art,
it is, no doubt, as Jack Warwick concludes, because it is central to the
national mentality: 'That is the elementary appeal of the Canadian for-
est which has not changed, because the modern man setting out into it
is still taking with him the same unsatisfied desire to balance order and
freedom, and the same yearning to confront and interrogate something
more absolute than the fragile realities of his real habitat' ( The Long
Journey , 100).
The specification of this law as a 'loi du Nord' seems to suggest that
it is a matter of national identity, as Warwick contends (97), yet the em-
pathy and fascination of the Frenchmen Augustin Meyrand and
Stanislas Lanski, the latter of Polish extraction, and the earlier bond that
Pierre feels with Shakespeare, as well as the international array of
painters whose work attracts him, seem to strike a universal chord that
resonates deeply in all humanity. 20
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