- Adjacencies: Minority Writing in Canada
The dozen essays in this volume stem from a conference held in 1998 at the Université de Montréal. A six-year gap between conference papers and [End Page 442] publication may be the norm in the humanities, whereas in the sciences such a hiatus might render the original findings obsolete. Lack of funding further results in 'squint print' in bibliographies and biographies at the end of the volume, whereby contributors are reduced to another minority status.
The essays vary in interdisciplinary quality, but given that three editors were involved with only twelve essays, the editing could have been more stringent. Sherry Simon's 'Land to Light On?' introduces the essays, which in turn pay tribute to her seminal work on translation. After briefly discussing Dionne Brand's poetry (Land to Light On), Simon summarizes the dozen essays that follow. Her use of the word 'minoritized' (however au courant with the social sciences' incursion into the humanities) points to one of the flaws in this book: a tendency to include jargon that jars with the subject matter. In other words, many of the essays apply heavy-handed academic rhetoric and theory to minority writing whose humanitarian core is so far removed from the academy as to be anything but 'adjacent.'
Ironically, the order of the essays could have been arranged to place greater emphasis on adjacencies; that is, the two essays on Italian-Canadian writing could have been placed side by side instead of separated, and the essays on Icelandic, Dutch, and Doukhobor writing could have been grouped together. Similarly, it would have made sense to situate the essay on Robert Majzels alongside the one that deals with the writing of Régine Robin and Monique Bosco.
Amaryll Chanady's 'The Construction of Minority Subjectivities at the End of the Twentieth Century' provides an overview, beginning with Neil Bissoondath's Selling Illusions, shifting to Italian-Canadian literature, and ending with a discussion of Austin Clarke's short story 'Canadian Experience.' Sandwiched between these primary sources are a number of critical theories devoted to 'nomadic subjectivities,' 'transculturation,' 'strategic essentialism,' and 'chaos theory.' Chanady's construction of identities is characteristic of the other essays. Similarly uneven, Lucie Lequin's 'Ethics and the Imaginary' explores the writings of Nadine Ltaif, Monique Bosco, and Régine Robin with their multivocal wanderings, metamorphoses, uncertainties, and mobile gaze. Her call for a 'holographic criticism' is interesting, but the editors should not have overlooked inconsistencies between 'postcolonial' and 'post-colonial,' or 'She wants neither to conform nor fall into line' and 'in a similar but different way.'
Daisy Neijmann's coverage of Icelandic-Canadian literature reminds us of the transcultural notion of Canadian writing in constant flux. Samara Walbohm uncovers the 'native condition' in Sheila Watson's novels. The editors could have made some linkage between Don Randall's focus on Kip in Ondaatje's The English Patient and the other Kip in Watson's The Double Hook. Heike Harting analyses the metaphors of conch-shell and inner tube in Austin Clarke's The Origin of Waves. Her essay begins in an interesting [End Page 443] fashion, but turns heavy-handed in the second half where the psychoanalytic jargon would hardly be recognizable to any of the characters in question. Again, this essay (which could have benefited from J. Hillis Miller's discussion of repetition and labyrinths) should have been edited more stringently. By contrast, the two essays dealing with Italian-Canadian literature seem lightweight.
Striking a balance, Lianne Moyes's analysis of Robert Majzels's City of Forgetting is incisive, but omits the relevant work of Sander Gilman. Majzels's recent publication of Apikoros Sleuth demonstrates the importance of a shorter hiatus between initial conference and publication of proceedings. Although Pamela Sing's 'Francophone Writing in the Canadian West' alludes to Deleuze and Guattari's study of 'minor literature,' more of the volume could have been devoted to the distinctions between 'minority writing' and 'minor literature.' The concluding essay, 'One Hybrid Discourse of Doukhobor Identity,' further points to...