Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
If the French-Canadian nation becomes a 'race that will not die'
( Maria , Menaud ) it is in large part due to the contact with other races
and cultures that is sustained throughout the texts and paintings we
have encountered. Indeed, the early short story and the first paintings
of Légaré and Krieghoff are dominated by Amerindian protagonists,
who impart lessons not only of courage and freedom, but also of hy-
bridity itself, essential to the revitalization of the French-Canadian na-
tion in the wake of political failures and threats of assimilation. Garneau
devotes a large portion of his history to the Amerindian nations, detail-
ing their icons, customs, and values, many of which (the canoe, for ex-
ample) have already been adopted by French Canadians. Pierre Guérin,
Maurice Darville, and Pierre Cadorai undertake the customary voyage
of initiation to France, as do painters like Suzor-Coté, Cullen, Morrice,
Gagnon, Borduas, and Riopelle, whose lessons in French Impressionism,
surrealism, and abstraction then enhance their own reinterpretation
and reinvigoration of the Canadian landscape. Many other characters,
notably Jean Rivard, Angéline de Montbrun, Pierre Cadorai, and Flora
Fontanges, are exposed to a variety of other cultures through literary
texts, which cause them to expand their view of the nation, the uni-
verse, and the cultural lenses through which they see. Immigrant writ-
ing and the mere presence of immigrant cultures enlarge and enrich the
concept of national identity in Les aurores montréales . In short, as Réjean
Beaudoin puts it, the modern novel undergoes and undertakes an
'interrogation plurielle' ( Le roman , 76).
This plurality and expansion in turn broaden the notion of national
identity, which cannot be attained by simply inheriting the father's
'culture,' his land, and values, but must be forged through confronta-
tion with the past, art, nature, other cultures, and the shifting circum-
stances of history. It is at this point that we can perhaps summarize just
what lessons have been discovered, what new values have emerged,
and what traits of national identity have come into sharper focus from
our study of the literature and painting of Quebec.
The cogent statement of the political scientist Louis Balthazar -
'Quebec is well and truly a society that is pluralist, multiethnic, laic,
and open to the world' (35) - is meant to apply to 'modern Quebec' (37),
after the Quiet Revolution. In my view, however, it is important to
stress that, in fact, the germs of these traits are already present in
Quebec's earliest works of art, which cause their readers and spectators
to move beyond a limited and limiting concept of culture often attrib-
uted to Quebec and progress to a broader one, based on values more
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