- 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.
- The Real and the Other by Albert Braz
Books reviewed: Les Indiens blancs: français et indiens en Amérique du Nord (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles) by Philippe Jacquin and Louis Riel: poèmes amériquains by Mathias Carvalho and Jean Morisset
- Romantic Colonies by Miranda Burgess
Books reviewed: Bardic Nationalism by Katie Trumpener and Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780-1835 by Sonia Hofkosh and Alan Richardson
- Robin Blaser's Summa by Douglas Barbour
Books reviewed: The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser by Robin Blaser and Miriam Nichols and The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser by Robin Blaser and Miriam Nichols
- L'enfance à risque by Sylvain Marois
Books reviewed: Le petit Lalonde by Raymond Lévesque and Maïta by Esther Beauchemin
- Collaborative Spirits by Susan Holbrook
Books reviewed: Wait Until Late Afternoon by David Bateman and Hiromi Goto, Sybil Unrest by Larissa Lai and Rita Wong, and Automaton Biographies by Larissa Lai
MLA: Dufault, Roseanna L. Cross-cultural Exchanges. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #191 (Winter 2006). (pg. 107 - 108)
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