Travel Reference
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moment. At the same time, it suits her. She only hopes there will be no
reaction (no clash, no emotion) between the city and herself before she
arrives at the hotel on rue Sainte-Anne. She does not want to remember
that her false grandmother used to live in the old city, that she had to go
through the walls on her way to her house for lunch every Sunday. (5-6)]
The passage begins with a negative temporal expression ('il n'y a plus
de gare'), which underscores the changes brought on by the passage of
time and Flora's keen consciousness of it, key themes throughout the
novel. The ensuing sentences contain a series of impressions of vast
space ('en plein champ … un terrain vague'), as if filtered through the
character's perception, limited by darkness to a few snapshots, con-
veyed by the staccato rhythm of elliptical sentences ('La nuit. La rase
campagne'). As with the many landscapes we have examined, this
cityscape begins to fill in with details of light and line ('des guirlandes
de lumière dessinent des rues'), before focusing on various places, intu-
ited by reading signs ('éclat de néon signalant un motel'). Perception of
specific details is impeded by Flora's refusal to look ('elle ferme les
yeux') and voluntary alienation from her surroundings, punctuated by
a direct quote from Baudelaire (' Anywhere out of this world '), all the more
alienating as it is in English and in italics. 3 Her desire to avoid remem-
bering particular places - 'Elle ne veut pas se souvenir que sa fausse
grand-mère habitait la vieille ville et qu'il fallait franchir l'enceinte des
murs' - nonetheless provides us with clues concerning the identity of
Flora ('sa fausse grand-mère' suggests that she was indeed adopted)
and that of the city (there is but one walled city in North America:
Quebec). The passage is thus typical both of the intermingling of the
cityscape and the character's identity and of the partial, progressive con-
struction of both, despite Flora's determination to repress personal mem-
ories by avoiding certain places, negative sites of memory, associated
with them and by escaping through art, here a passage from Baudelaire,
later her theatrical roles.
As Flora awakens from her first night's sleep in the new city, she is
obliged to construct her identity (in the simplest, most functional sense)
from the perception of her surroundings:
Longtemps elle a dormi très tard, dans des chambres inconnues, dans des
villes étrangères. Durant de longues années, elle a éprouvé l'effarement de
celle qui se réveille dans le noir et qui ne sait plus où elle se trouve. De là à
ne pas savoir qui elle était, l'espace d'un instant, la panique était complète.
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