Insights from Memory's Sites
- Anne Gilbert (Editor), Michel Bock (Editor), and Joseph-Yvon Thériault (Editor)
Entre lieux et mémoire: L'inscription de la francophonie canadienne dans la durée. University of Ottawa Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Paul Dubé
Inspired by Pierre Nora’s multivolume Lieux de mémoire, considered one of the grandest and most ambitious series of documents on the history of the French nation, this collection of essays,—the result of a colloquium entitled “Lieux de mémoire, commémoration et identité dans la francophonie canadienne”—carries a title which reflects the authors’ collective findings, that is to show how the Canadian “Francophonie” is inscribed in continuity (“durée”). The editors, whose introduction provides a clear and comprehensive articulation of the problematic and a useful summary of the essays included in the volume, have carefully weighed the words in the title, namely the “entre” (between) which can surprise the reader, they say, “as much for the transition it expresses as for the hesitation it translates”, but is, they add, the only possible title given its object.
Indeed, the essays present a Canadian Francophonie in a transformative process, a society whose relationship to places and spaces is evolving, but quite differently as Québec’s consolidation of those sites is significantly different from that of the many communities stretching the land, weakened (and this needs questioning!) by their daily contact with the Other, be it the Anglophone or the immigrant. The Francophonie’s memory markers are somewhat ambiguous as they are located between tradition and modernity, nation and ethnicity, majority and minority, Québec and French Canada. Since the late 1960s, the Francophonie has experienced turbulent times within itself, this leading to a “deficit of meaning” which is also reflected in the tenuous link between time and place relative to continuity, a somewhat unusual situation when compared to most other societies.
In attempting to inscribe the Francophonie in continuity by constructing sites of memory, the essays focus on rather pragmatic aspects, namely by looking at history to locate solid markers and by matching them to places and spaces which outline a territory whose construction, mirroring identity, remains incomplete. For the Francophonie, these memory sites become a necessary passage as the territory remains in flux and its past is subject to multiple interpretations.
The reader will find fourteen essays divided into three parts: 1) historical, inscribing communities in continuity; 2) geographical, accentuating spaces/places (cities, village, monuments, etc) to construct collective memory; 3) discursive, creating narratives (literature, film, etc) by which a place of memory is instituted. As Nora’s project called upon an array of specialists to provide the widest possible perspectives on a complex matter, so does this collection of essays, focusing also on an assortment of objects, from licence plate to family ties, from theatre to rebellion, from landscape to discoverer, and so on: these are tied together with the carrying notion of “lieux de mémoire”. It provides a unique insight into the French communities of Canada.
- Ideas of North by John Moss
Books reviewed: Northern Experience and the Myths of Canadian Culture by Renée Hulan and Canada and the Idea of North by Sherrill Grace
- Voix d'outre-monde by Maité Snauwaert
Books reviewed: Que vais-je devenir jusqu'à ce que je meure? by Robert Lalonde and Le Mangeur by Ying Chen
- Les relations intimes by Sandra Hobbs
Books reviewed: Vous devez être heureuse by Katerine Caron, L'angle mort by Jean-François Chassay, and Le cercle parfait by Pascale Quiviger
- Inventorier ou créer un lieu de mémoire? by Michel Ducharme
Books reviewed: La Capricieuse (1855): poupe et proue. Les relations France-Québec (1760-1914) by Yvan Lamonde and Didier Poton
- Identity Narratives by Maryann Tjart Jantzen
Books reviewed: Women and Narrative Identity: Rewriting the Quebec National Text by Mary Jean Green
MLA: Dubé, Paul. Insights from Memory's Sites. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #206 (Autumn 2010). (pg. 138 - 139)
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