Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
d'habitants'), to Montreal ('les mille lumières de la grande ville'), to
their final destination ('les deux flèches argentées de Lavaltrie').
Thanks to the elevated (albeit imaginary) viewpoint, the landscape
can be seen and depicted as extremely complex, involving far more than
the simple juxtaposition of nature and culture that has characterized pre-
vious texts. Here we progress from nature ('bouquets des grands pins
noirs') to a complex set of cultural spaces involving a new opposition
between the city, Montreal, and the country - that is, between culture
('les mille lumières de la grande ville') and agriculture ('les lumières
dans les maisons d'habitants'). This new configuration of the landscape
captures the structure of contemporary French-Canadian society, as does
the telling of the tale by the workers in the employ of the 'bourgeois,'
whose avatars appear in the streets of Montreal gaping at the flying ca-
noe ('des groupes s'arrêter dans les rues pour nous voir passer').
Thanks also to the movement of the canoe, of the imagination, of the
text itself, which, unlike a painting, evolves over time, Beaugrand is able
to depict a highly hybrid landscape reflecting the complex layers of
French-Canadian identity. Moreover, set against the vast landscape, the
canoe is itself a place of culture (albeit popular), a nexus of shared values,
efforts, and conversation, beginning with a common legend and accom-
panying chant and culminating with the collective singing of a song,
transcribed over a full page, the subject of which is none other than the
'Canot d'écorce qui vole' (27-8). Like Cadieux, the canoe has its own
song and becomes itself a cultural icon capable of emitting its own source
of illumination: 'laissant derrière nous comme une traînée d'étincelles.'
The voyageurs, having danced the night away with their 'blondes,'
must return to the camp, guided by Joe himself since Baptiste had bro-
ken their common vow not to drink and thus imperils their journey,
much to the Devil's delight. Despite a crash into the pine trees near the
camp, caused by the drunken Baptiste, the travellers awaken the next
morning with only a few bruises. For his enrapt listeners, Joe adds the
moral that they should avoid the chasse-galerie , 'surtout si vous avez un
maudit ivrogne qui se mêle de gouverner' (35; especially if you have a
damned drunkard who tries to steer), a false moral to be sure, for what
intrepid French Canadian will not take a drink, will not take a risk for
his 'blonde,' and will not become again, like his ancestors, a voyageur ,
if only in the realm of the imagination, transcending the wilderness and
sharing a song or a tale with his comrades ? 14
In short, like the canoe, the tale itself is a cultural place that tran-
scends not only nature but the obstacles imposed by conflicting cul-
tural imperatives, such as the economic necessity of having to leave
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