Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter Ten
'My Land(scape) is Winter'
In 1964, at the very outset of the Quiet Revolution, the already well-known
folksinger Gilles Vigneault composed a song, Mon pays , often described as
an 'anthem' or 'hymne national,' although erroneously so according to its
author. 1 The song was, nonetheless, banned from the air by Radio Canada
during the eruptions of violence in October of 1970. 2 The famous first
verse and refrain, 'Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver' (My land
is not a land, it is winter) seems to equate ('c'est') nation ('mon pays') with
nature ('l'hiver'), in its harshest yet most distinctively Canadian form, just
as the North has come to identify Canada geographically . 3 Indeed, the
bright, intricate, and innovative snowscapes of painters like Suzor-Coté,
Cullen, and Gagnon brought new dimensions and a sense of 'Canadianness'
to the experiments with light inaugurated by the French Impressionists
(chapter five). On the other hand, winter also spells danger for Pierre
Cadorai (chapter eight), dementia for Menaud (chapter six), and death for
François Paradis (chapter six). Conversely, the very harshness of the sea-
son and the increased vastness of space - emptied and homogenized by
defoliated trees, barren fields, and a blanket of snow - invariably bring
into focus a cultural place, usually the homestead or the hearth, and along
with it a sense of reflection and community, as in this passage from
Hémon's Maria Chapdelaine : 'La maison devint le centre du monde, et en
vérité la seule parcelle du monde où l'on pût vivre, et plus que jamais le
grand poêle de fonte fut le centre de la maison.' (98; The house became the
centre of the world, and in truth the only parcel of the world where one
could live, and more than ever the large cast-iron stove was the centre of
the house.) In winterscapes, both verbal and visual, the cultural place, of-
ten absorbed into the beautiful vistas of spring, autumn, or summer and
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