Travel Reference
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the contrary, to reveal them, both to the reader and ultimately to Flora
herself. Indeed, the resemblance between Flora's situation and that of
the characters she plays is sometimes so great as to cause several critics
to speak of 'mise en abyme,' a nested structure where the 'play within
the play' mirrors and illuminates some aspect of the larger play that
encompasses it. 9 Hébert herself stresses 'la logique interne de l'œuvre'
('Poésie,' 62; the internal logic of the work), and certainly what her
novel lacks in chronological clarity, it more than makes up for in logical,
analogical, and especially archaeological solidity.
The mechanism of role-playing is generally the same: Raphaël men-
tions the name of an early habitante , a seventeenth-century woman set-
tler; he and Flora lend her an age, a civil status, a family, and an address
in the lower city, which they visit; then Flora immerses herself in the
character and plays out a role she imagines in detail. It is from these
details that the reader deduces the very fears and desires that the role is
ostensibly meant to hide. Barbe Abbadie, for example, is a pregnant
shop owner with four children and a husband who adores her, a situa-
tion that would seem anathema to Flora, who nonetheless authors it,
acts it out, and revels in it (during the 'scene' she begins to flirt with
Raphaël). Her explanation - 'Rassure-toi, mon petit Raphaël, tout ça,
c'est du théâtre' (53; Don't worry, Raphaël dear, it's only theatre [38]) -
is more ironic than reassuring, since it is in fact the theatre that holds
the truth, albeit in disguised form.
More recognizable is the name of Marie Rollet, the first habitante of
the new colony and wife of Louis Hébert, an onomastic, not to mention
cultural, ancestor of the novelist. It is in their 'scene' that the meaning
of the novel's title is revealed, 10 in a passage contrasting their French-
style garden ('le premier jardin') with the surrounding wilderness,
whose visual qualities we examined in the introduction to this topic:
Est-ce donc si difficile de faire un jardin, en pleine forêt, et de l'entourer
d'une palisade comme un trésor? Le premier homme s'appelait Louis
Hébert et la première femme, Marie Rollet. Ils ont semé le premier jardin
avec des graines qui venaient de France. Ils ont dessiné le jardin d'après
cette idée de jardin, ce souvenir de jardin dans leur tête, et ça ressemblait
à s'y méprendre à un jardin de France, jeté dans la forêt du Nouveau
Monde. Des carottes, des salades, des poireaux, des choux bien alignés, en
rangs serrés, tirés au cordeau, parmi la sauvagerie de la terre tout alentour.
Quand le pommier, ramené d'Acadie par M. de Mons, et transplanté, a
enfin donné des fruits, c'est devenu le premier de tous les jardins du
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