Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
against the Amerindian on the other; at the same time, this one-time
adversary becomes a present-day avatar for the nineteenth-century art-
ist looking backward for roots and values. 3 The natural landscape is
also invariably inscribed with signs of culture, not only those of religion
and agriculture, but especially those staking out specific places, lieux de
mémoire (Nora and Kritzman, xvii), which memorialize past feats and
heroes and persist through the texts and paintings themselves, which
then become the ultimate 'sites of memory.'
Published anonymously in 1827 in two instalments of La Bibliothèque
canadienne , the short story L'Iroquoise: Histoire, ou nouvelle historique is
still widely considered to be among the first fictional works authored
by a French Canadian born in the New World, even though a very simi-
lar English version appeared several months earlier in a New York
newspaper. 4 Like many short stories of the period, it begins with a nar-
rative frame, explaining the story's origin. Set in the recent past, a third-
person narrator introduces a traveller (a frequent fictional stand-in for
the reader), who is hosted by a 'cultivateur' with a manuscript, which
remains illegible, even for the literate traveller. The manuscript serves,
however, to ignite the memory of the peasant, who recounts to the trav-
eller a story told to him by his grandfather. Around 1700, the grandfa-
ther's French friend Bouchard had found the manuscript, written by
one Père Mesnard, deceased for some time, which relates an event from
the missionary's past, presumably set around 1650 . 5 The content of
Mesnard's manuscript, as reported by Bouchard to his friend, who told
it to his grandson, who (assisted by the third-person narrator) now re-
counts it to the traveller, is, then, the substance of the story. To simplify
this complex narrative framework, we can represent it with approxi-
mate dates as follows: anonymous author's story (1827) Æ peasant's
tale (ca 1800) Æ grandfather's version (ca 1750) Æ Bouchard's discov-
ery (ca 1700) Æ Mesnard's manuscript (ca 1650).
Far from gratuitous, the chain of narrators, comprising a series of un-
broken links from the nineteenth century to the French colonial past,
guarantees the authenticity of the tale and certifies it as a genuine memo-
rial and repository of national identity, through a discursive telescoping
of past, present, and future essential to the process of commemoration,
as described by Gérard Namer:
Search WWH ::

Custom Search