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CONSTRUCTING AN IDENTITY OF “RELATION” IN RÉGINE ROBIN’S L’IMMENSE FATIGUE DES PIERRES MARTHA BROOM IN the 21st century, the question of identity becomes more complex as geographical and cultural boundaries become less distinct. Régine Robin, the French-Québécoise writer and social scientist highlights the challenging quest of identity that has also been her own in the 1996 collection of biofictions, L’immense fatigue des pierres. In each biofiction, she traces distinct, individual quests where one seeks to reclaim their identity from behind the paralyzing silence of History. As the genre “biofiction” indicates, Robin unites both history and imagination in the reconstruction of identities for only the powers of imagination can break down the History’s walls of silence. Faced with this challenge, Robin proposes the “collage” as both an artistic means and as an expression of identity. As we will see in this study, collage provides the opportunity to glue together an identity of “Relation” as proposed by Edouard Glissant. The art of collage allows for an interactive, symbiotic and life-giving process of and between both imaginary and historical elements linked to one’s identity that were previously separated by the alienating walls of silence, “[…] la Relation diversifie les humanités selon des séries infinies de modèles, infiniment mis en contact et relayées. […] la Relation prend source dans ces contacts et non pas en elle-même ; […] La Relation est un produit, qui produit à son tour” (“Poétique” 174). Robin’s is a rhizomic text that graphically illustrates the recreation of identity through the dynamics of symbiotic relations of identities. We will see that language and the assembly art of collage become tools that enable Robin to bridge the space of time and diverse cultures in order to bring together an eclectic identity that spontaneously expresses the indi335 vidual in the present. Furthermore, Robin’s innovative use of writing and collage in a new genre of “biofictions” mirrors the discontinuous, heterogeneous and spontaneous elements of Edouard Glissant’s rhizomic nature of “Relation” and “Tout-monde” and the relationship between history, memory and identity as studied by Paul Ricoeur. By mirroring the art form of collage as a literary style, Robin’s rhizomic text becomes an enabler of identity. In essence, she mimics the psychological process of liberating memories and elements of one’s identity that were once paralyzed in the silence of inexistent or unexpressed pasts and integrating them into a relation of acceptance and coexistence. Throughout her book, L’immense fatigue des pierres, Robin announces the artistic power of language to create and unite while emphasizing its contradictory nature of being able to exclude and alienate. By highlighting language’s binary functions in the incipit of the first biofiction, Robin confronts the reader with the dual movement that will dominate the text, that of both unifying and separating. Robin underlines the negative disjointedness and poignancy of language in; yet she also includes words’ unifying power by graphically isolating its unifying power in the phrase by the commas, “Les mots qui manquent, les mots gelés, la glu des mots, les mots barbelés” (7). Robin suggests that language can be like an artistic material of adhesiveness by gluing together various, disparate elements that allows the creation of a new entity where both separation and unification can co-exist. However, Robin also underlines the other side of words: while words can reveal, they can also conceal. Robin highlights the hermetic aspect of language that prohibits a person from expressing the complexity of inner feelings in the first biofiction “L ’immense fatigue des pierres” by portraying language’s ability to alienate and exclude, “Je n’ai jamais eu le courage de te demander comme ça entre deux cafés – Maman, tu m’aimes ? Qu’est-ce que je représente pour toi ? Dis !” (13). While the daughter is frustrated by what appears to be her mother’s emotional impassiveness, the mother is actively protecting herself behind the shield of words. Language, therefore, serves as a camouflage for her feelings that are too complex and painful to articulate. In the end, the consequence of veiling her true emotions is a lack of...


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pp. 335-343
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