- Shodja Eddin Ziaïan (Author)
Contes iraniens islamisés. Gref (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Keith Garebian (Author)
Frida: Paint me as a Volcano/Frida: Un Volcan de Souffrance. Buschek Books (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Monique Patenaude (Author)
Made in Auroville, India. Éditions Triptyque (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Roseanna L. Dufault
The three works considered here take us from Quebec to India, from India to Mexico, and from Iran back to Canada. In a world where mutual understanding is badly needed, these disparate texts offer welcome glimpses into other cultures.
The title Made in Auroville, India refers to clothing and crafts fashioned by residents of the galaxy-shaped city founded in 1968 by Mira Alfassa, known as “Mère.” Organized according to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, Auroville attracted young people from all over the world, including Lysiane Delambre, narrator of Monique Patenaude’s autobiographical first novel. Disillusioned by events of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lysiane leaves Quebec to pursue spiritual truth and meaning in India. The narrative follows her twenty-year spiritual journey, which includes a serious illness, acute depression, a search for useful contributions to the community, as well as encounters with various other residents of Auroville. The text contains pithy observations regarding Quebec, whose “vieux rêve d’indépendance . . . apparaissait de plus en plus anachronique dans l’ambiance actuelle de mondalisation” (194), as well as comments on paradoxes in India’s complex society. Much of the text reflects on whether Auroville more closely resembles an ashram or a Club Med. The fact that “Mère” intended it to belong to humanity in general rather than to anyone in particular poses legal problems and numerous conflicts among groups and individuals who seek to claim ownership. Attempting to live freely, without laws or hierarchy, proves to be a serious challenge for Auroville’s most sincere devotees. Patenaude’s novel manages to convey the appeal of utopian visions and the attraction of India’s mysticism, while insightfully exposing human obstacles to harmony and enlightenment.
Originally from Bombay, Keith Garebian incorporates powerful images in his book of poetry based on the life and works of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Frida: Paint me as a Volcano / Frida: Un Volcan de Souffrance is a bilingual edition with English and French translations on facing pages. A short glossary of Spanish terms is included, along with a list of biographical works consulted. Garebian’s words evoke the vivid colours and intense emotions of Kahlo’s surreal paintings, which evoke the flora and fauna, folklore and traditions of Mexico. Poetic allusions to actual self portraits interspersed with brief prose passages express Kahlo’s physical pain, her love and admiration for Diego Rivera, and the suffering caused by his affairs. Arlette Francière’s French versions beautifully and idiomatically capture the essence of the original English. An excerpt chosen at random demonstrates this work’s compelling charm: “Outside the avocado doors / broad leaves are wet from dreaming / fierce origins, my necklace / dangling hearts and hands” (106). “Devant les portes vert olive / de larges feuilles sortent mouillées / de rêves d’origines féroces, mon collier / faisant danser des coeurs et des mains” (107).
Contes iraniens islamisés offers d French translations of ancient Persian texts enhanced by Shodja Eddin Ziaïan’s extensive notes and commentary. Ziaïan avoids sexist language by inventing the term “fommes” to indicate humans (femmes plus hommes, equal parts composing “la fumanité”). Thus, the tales, many of which inspired French authors La Fontaine and Voltaire, involve “animaux-fommes,” animal protagonists who talk and sometimes interact with humans, and “fommes-animaux,” human protagonists with animal-like natures. In an example of the former, “Une pommade pour les brûlures,” a clan of monkeys lives near a village whose humans use fireworks irresponsibly. Ignoring warnings to leave, the monkeys face disastrous consequences when their flesh is sought as a burn remedy after the inevitable fire. In an example of the latter, “Une souris qui mange du fer,” a dishonest neighbor steals a quantity of iron entrusted to him and blames the loss on a hungry mouse. In retaliation, the owner kidnaps his neighbour’s son and holds him hostage until the iron is returned. By far, the most interesting part of this collection is the “Postface,” which contains Ziaïan’s critical comments on the texts. Since the stories have long been considered useful for instilling moral values in children, Ziaïan questions whether their messages are in fact moral. Not really, he concludes, since they demonstrate survival strategies that frequently involve ruse and hypocrisy. Citing his own experiences of intimidation and censorship following the 1979 revolution in his native Iran, Ziaïan hopes to gain the sympathy of his readers and convey appreciation for Iran’s open and tolerant cultural traditions, which have unfortunately been confused with and dominated by a monolithic form of Islam.
- Lives in Art by Susan Wasserman
Books reviewed: Back Flip by Anne Denoon and Private View by Jean McNeil
- In Search of Sanctuary by Gordon Bölling
Books reviewed: Cities of Refuge by Michael Helm and Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton
- Dancing in the Mud by Shane Rhodes
Books reviewed: American Standard & Other Poems by Joseph Sherman, Doubt's Boots: Even Doubt's Shadow by Charles Noble, and Skaldance by Gary Geddes
- What's New? by Moberley Luger
Books reviewed: Breathing Fire 2: Canada's New Poets by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry by Carmine Starnino, and Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry by derek beaulieu, Jason Christie, and Angela Rawlings
- In a Minor Key by Linda Lamont-Stewart
Books reviewed: Footnotes to the Book of Job by Elizabeth Brewster
MLA: Dufault, Roseanna L. Cross-cultural Exchanges. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #191 (Winter 2006). (pg. 107 - 108)
***Please note that the articles and reviews from the Canadian Literature website (www.canlit.ca) may not be the final versions as they are printed in the journal, as additional editing sometimes takes place between the two versions. If you are quoting from the website, please indicate the date accessed when citing the web version of reviews and articles.