Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
layers of time into the imaginary and transcendent zone of the legend-
ary and extends the legend beyond any individual hero to the populace
itself. The story, told by Joe (the cook at a lumber camp), is a personal
'reminiscence' set in the recent, not remote, past (1858); it is in fact a
pretend past masking the imagination, or as François Ricard aptly puts
it, 'le déplacement temporel masque un autre déplacement beaucoup
plus radical: le passage du réel au fabuleux, de la vie à l'imaginaire.'
(10; the temporal displacement masks a much more radical displace-
ment: the passage from reality to fable, from real life to the imaginary.)
Joe recounts his tale to his fellow loggers, huddled around the camp
stove drinking rum in a cabin surrounded by the vast wilderness and
trapped by the snow on New Year's Eve. Beaugrand evokes effects of
light and shadow to stimulate the imagination of his readers and Joe's
listeners (22), who are of working-class origin, in the employ of the ab-
sent and anonymous 'bourgeois' (21). Joe's argot-laden tale involves a
similar setting and circumstance some thirty-five years earlier, when,
after having fallen into a drunken stupor, he is awakened by one
Baptiste Durand, who proposes a trip back to their village of Lavaltrie,
in the Saint Lawrence valley, to wish their 'blondes' a happy New Year.
Since the trip would normally take two months in such snow, Joe un-
derstands that Baptiste means taking the flying canoe, la chasse-galerie ,
which involves a deal with the Devil, who will win the traveller's soul
if certain conditions aren't met: 'Il s'agit tout simplement de ne pas pro-
noncer le nom de Dieu pendant tout le trajet, et de ne pas s'accrocher
aux croix des clochers en voyageant.' (24; It is quite simply a matter of
not pronouncing the name of God during the entire trip and not getting
caught on the steeple crosses while travelling.) These are no small tasks
for the drunken woodsmen, but with seven companions, Joe is con-
vinced to take the risk.
The bird's-eye view of the vast landscape from the flying canoe is
depicted in some detail, only parts of which are given here:
Pendant un quart d'heure, environ, nous naviguâmes au-dessus de la fo-
rêt sans apercevoir autre chose que les bouquets des grands pins noirs. Il
faisait une nuit superbe et la lune dans son plein, illuminait le firmament
comme un beau soleil du midi … Nous aperçumes bientôt une éclaircie,
c'était la Gatineau dont la surface glacée et polie étincelait au-dessous de
nous comme un immense miroir. Puis, p'tit-à-p'tit nous aperçumes des
lumières dans les maisons d'habitants; puis des clochers d'églises qui re-
luisaient comme des baïonnettes de soldats, quand ils font l'exercice sur le
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