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disappear 'sous la dent corrosive des siècles' (47; at the corrosive bite of
the centuries). The first-person narrator, who identifies himself as the
author of the tale we are about to read, is honoured ('je me glorifie' [48])
to be a native Canadian and determined to preserve its 'faits mémor-
ables,' which, he notes are often linked to the landscape: 'Peut-être la
terre que je foule maintenant sous mes pieds a-t-elle été le théâtre de
quelque grand exploit?' (48; Perhaps the land that I'm now treading
upon has been the scene of some great deed?) In his old age, as he re-
reads his own previous writings, he now understands the true cultural
meaning of certain episodes from his youth, including the subject of the
present short story, 'parmi les cent et un épisodes qui composent la
chronique des peuples du Canada' (among the hundred and one epi-
sodes that compose the chronicle of the peoples of Canada), which he
has decided to publish in order to give 'une idée des mœurs de ses pre-
miers habitants, que l'on avait peints si farouches et d'un caractère si
barbare' (49; an idea of the mores of its first inhabitants, who have been
depicted as so fierce and so barbarous in character). In short, French-
Canadian history and even the identity of the 'habitant' are intricately
bound to its 'premiers habitants,' the Amerindians, and can be pre-
served only by the tale itself, a monument that withstands the corrosive
effects of time.
Part one of the story is entitled 'La pierre de Louise' (Louise's rock)
and prefaced by a quote taken directly from Chateaubriand's Atala (87):
'Si tu crains les troubles du cœur, défie-toi des retraites sauvages: Les
grandes passions sont solitaires, et les transporter au désert, ce n'est
que les rendre à leur empire.' (50; If you fear the troubles of the heart,
beware of wild places: Great passions are solitary, and transporting
them into the wilderness only returns them to their empire.) While the
thought appears to condemn pure nature ('retraites sauvages') and soli-
tude, the story itself begins, nonetheless, with an episode from his
youth in which the solitary narrator is transfixed by an enchanting nat-
ural landscape: 'Un instant encore et l'horizon présentait le spectacle le
plus enchanteur. D'un côté des groupes de montagnes dont les formes
bizarres se dessinaient sur le fond doré d'un ciel étincelant de lumière,
que lançait au-devant de lui l'astre du jour.' (50; One more instant and
the horizon presented the most enchanting spectacle. On one side,
groups of mountains whose bizarre shapes were sketched out against
the golden background of a sky sparkling with light, which the sun cast
before itself.) Although succinctly sketched, the landscape is presented
in a painterly manner as a 'spectacle' with shapes ('formes bizarres')
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