Literatures, Nations, Regions
- Mercedes Roffé (Author) and Nelly Roffé (Translator)
Définitions mayas. Éditions du Noroît (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Lisa Soares de Souza (Author)
Utopies américaines au Québec et au Brésil. P.U.L. (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Jaume Pont (Author) and François Michel-Durazzo (Translator)
Vol de cendres. Éditions du Noroît (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Rita De Grandis
Vol de cendres, a translation by François Michel-Durazzo of Catalan Jaume Pont’s poetry, is imbued with death, emptiness, loss, and absurdity. The poems are an expression of the contradictions of human existence. They convey the tension between the metaphysical aspirations of man and Eros, between love and death. Pont’s poetry is strongly reminiscent of the poetry of Juan de la Cruz, Georges Bataille, Wallace Stevens, Charles Baudelaire, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound.
Définitions mayas by Mercedes Roffé is another translation from the Spanish, by Nelly Roffé, of poems whose universe is made of apparently insignificant words, but words that express nonetheless contradictions, hopes, and disillusionment. The title, borrowed from a series of texts gathered by ethnologist Allan Burns grounds the poetry in a pan-American vision.
Utopies américaines au Québec et au Brésil, by Licia Soares de Souza, uses a combination of analytical approaches, including theories of hybridity, cultural heterogeneity, cultural anthropophagy, popular culture, and utopiecritique to compare two aesthetically unrelated literatures of the 1930s.
The first comparison is between Menaud maître-draveur by Félix-Antoine Savard and Mar morto by Jorge Amado, in which the waters function as a symbolic cradle of American myth. In Mar morto, the Atlantic Ocean symbolizes a place of renewal through the encounter of the Amerindian, the Black, and the White races. Like a division between land and sea, individual classes live as destinies embodying the sea of a mystic aura. A denotative dematerialization of history, told by musical rhythm, is realized by a mythic object, the African goddess of the sea, Iemanjá, a variant of the siren, as a religious figure of African culture. Amado recuperates myths of ancient slaves, constructing utopic images to avoid the hardships of the social reality. In Menaud maître-draveur, the Black River is the site of struggle within a series of cultural practices between conquistadores and “savages.” Mountain and river have positive and negative meanings, allowing for a particularly utopic type of civil society and a dangerous site of death—Joson, Menaud’s son, dies in the rafting of timber. Menaud maître-draveur is a new version of the coureur des bois, of the nomad and of the woodsman, and presents fundamental dualisms that express themselves in the opposition between mountains and prairies, the dualism of characters, nomadic and sedentary, and, within Menaud himself, between dream and action, between his will to hunt intruders and his inability to do so.
The second comparison between Trente arpents by Ringuet, pseudonym of Philippe Panneton, and Terras do sem fim by Jorge Amado, demonstrates the convergences and divergences of spaces in these two novels. Trente arpents is structured over the rhythm of the seasons and of its protagonist, Euchariste Moisan, whose perilous family life sets the stage for his relationship to the land. The conflict, a dispute over land, takes Euchariste and his neighbour Phydime to litigation, paralleling the dispute between the colonels in Terras do sem fim. Ringuet shows not only the contradictions in the conditions of ownership, but also the cultural elements to reflect on those contradictions. Terras do sem fimi, unlike Trente arpents, tells the story of a departure by boat of numerous reclusives to the land of Ilhéus, where they discover the culture of the golden fruit, the cacao, the source of their future fortune. Colonel Sinhô, the protagonist, owns land resulting from a violent conquest, in contrast with the Québécois novel, where land is inherited. Therefore, land, death, cacao, and money form a chain of destruction, suppressing the utopic spirit.
The third comparative analysis between Un homme et son péché by Claude-Henri Grignon and São Bernardo by Graciliano Ramos, illustrates the American myth, suggested in the accumulation of money and the will to possess. Seraphin’s accumulating obsession destabilizes the dichotomy individualism/collectivity. Land becomes a metaphor for money and the novel moves from the symbolic level to the cultural, appealing for mass-culture appropriations (radio, TV, and the movie). São Bernardo is the name of a farm bought by Paulo Honório, an adventurer and nomad, who after having endured the hard life of the sertão, makes a fortune and becomes owner of the fertile land. Honório, capitalist-colonel, represents the ambiguities of the modern and of the traditional in the backlands (sertão). Grignon places the emphasis on the avarice of Seraphin in his search for power, while Ramos focuses on the relationships of belonging, property, and domination, resulting from the egotism of his anti-hero. Both characters look for women who can be useful for domestic work; Seraphin’s wife Donalda is sacrificed to death and Alexis, with whom Donalda has an adulterous and incestuous relationship, is the double who represents the mythic hero that allows all possibilities to occur. In Ramos’ novel, Madalena is a teacher, incorporating the social ideal of reform that coincides with the intellectual’s ideals of the 1930s, as she becomes the antithesis of her husband.
De Souza suggests that, from the utopiecritique perspective, these novels have a strong presence of utopic-myth configuration, exposing the neutralizing power of myth. Her assumptions are based on some of the major critics of utopia (Louis Marin, Raymond Trousson, and Lucie Villeneuve). De Souza’s analysis examines how fiction produces and is produced by the ambivalent and contradictory discourses that construct the New World. Utopic configurations provide a sense of identity as American myth, which, in Jean Morency’s notion of a myth, entails transformation and birth. Her hypothesis is that the materialization of a utopic ideology neutralizes the contradictions of an Old World that has been displaced to new spaces for birth.
De Souza’s comparative study demonstrates to what degree Québécois and Brazilian literatures are dynamic interrelated processes. A new inter-American comparativism has become fruitful since its beginnings in the 1970s. In the 1990s, under the postmodern paradigm of diversity and multiple sites of power relations, the hegemonic tradition of comparative literature between European cultures and their colonial counterparts has given rise to a revitalization of comparative studies among the literatures of the New World. These studies have reclaimed the term America from US appropriation, echoing Marti’s Nuestra América, a call for inter/trans Americanism. Furthermore, the three texts reviewed show how the Québécois intellectual arena has opened to other minorities or regional literatures, such as the Catalan, and to a minor literature in Spanish within the limits of such a field.
- 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
- Chewing Through Poetry by Zöe Landale
Books reviewed: Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon by Ray Hsu, Globetrotter & Hitler’s Children by Amatoritsero Ede, and Maple Leaf Rag by Kaie Kellough
- 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
- Poems of Witness by Hilary Clark
Books reviewed: Momentary Dark: New Poems by Margaret Avison, Inventory by Dionne Brand, and Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier by Catherine Hunter
- Between Exposures by Travis V. Mason
Books reviewed: Cinquefoil: New Work from Five Ottawa Poets by Mark Frutkin, Exposed by Catherine Hunter, and Between Lovers by Sheri-D Wilson
MLA: De Grandis, Rita. Literatures, Nations, Regions. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #196 (Spring 2008), Diasporic Women's Writing. (pg. 175 - 177)
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