- A l’ombre de DesRochers: le Mouvement littéraire des Cantons de l’Est, 1925–1950. L’Effervescence culturelle d’une région by Joseph Bonenfant et al. (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 56, Number 1, Fall 1986
- pp. 217-219
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- Additional Information
HUMANITIES 217 documents (1969), this book is a vital first step in trying to separate fancy from fact, and in seeking the root causes of the author's frenzy 'i\ developper et meme i\ gerer sa propre mythologie' (Michel Theriault). More than ever before, the writer reveals certain key aspects of his character: his anti-intellectualism ('j'ai enormement de plaisir secret et parfois tres, tres avoue i\ me moquer des professeurs - peut-etre parce que je les envie d'etre professeurs ...') coupled with a seemingly paradoxical desire to become part of the cultutal establishment; his animosity towards his mother because of her alleged bourgeois aspirations, and simultaneous obsession with placing his children in prestigious private schools like the College Sainte-Marie or Villa Maria. Theriault unhesitatingly tells his interlocutor about his bouts of alcoholism, suicidal tendencies, crass commercialism, severe physical suffering, and infirmity, about how these affected his later work, and about the'chicane perpetuelle' between his parents. In words reminiscent of the opening of Anne Hebert's 'Le Torrent,' he says: 'Je n'ai pas connu ~a, la tendresse d'une mere.' The grade 9 dropout also reveals his lifelong struggle to master an elegant style, especially by studying closely that of Mauriac, and his early attachment to natute, thanks mainly to his carpenter father. As Andre Carpentier tells us in his introduction, there are still serious impediments to drawing a 'definitive' portrait of Theriault because of the contradictions, distortions, exaggerations, and unverifiability of many of the writer's declarations, especially during the last fifteen years of his life. (The forty-seven cartons of manuscripts, letters, and documents recently given by the family to the Bibliotheque nationale du Quebec are not yet classified, nor legally consultable.) Even Theriault's frequently alleged 'Indian' ancestry is nuanced as 'probable' by Carpentier. Although he challenges Theriault's veracity on occasion, Carpentier is rather intimidated before the writer, and occaSionally too credulous and apologetic, as when he excuses Theriault's 'mamere d'elaborer pUbliquement sa vie revee' as a striking sign of his 'liberte.' He even calls this a 'strategie de toute evidence inconsciente,' although the conversations reveal the reverse. The sixteen pages ofphotosare a most welcome and insightfuladdition, as is the very striking cover picture of Theriault in Yugoslavia in 1962, at the height of his career, which shows clearly the iron will of the 'polygraphe' who decided as early as 1945 to live by his pen. (B.-Z. SHEK) Joseph Bonenfant et a1. A l'ombre de DesRochers: Ie Mouvement limraire des Cantons de l'Est, 1925-1950. L'Effervescence culturelle d'une region La Tribune; Les Editions de I'Universite de Sherbrooke. viil, )81 The remat'kable expansion of Quebec literary studies since the 1960s has taken many forms, of which one of the more recent has been the investigation of regional writing. Research teams centred in several of the province's universities are· currently engaged in inquiries into the regional literatures of the Three Rivers area (La Mauricie), the lower St Lawrence valley (Le Bas-du-fleuve), francophone Ontario (Le Nouvel Ontario), and the Eastern Townships (Les Cantons de I'Est). The latter group, located since 1977 at the Universite de Sherbrooke, has now published its first volume of studies, titled in memory of the principal author of the region, Alfred DesRochers (1901-78), and issued to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of Sherbrooke's leading French-language newspaper , fA Tribune. The volume opens with Antoine Sirois's minutely detailed essay on the history and cultural resources of the Cantons de I'Est from their first settlement to 1950, which provides a frame of reference for the pages that follow. Unlike other areas of Quebec, the Eastern Townships were first settled by American and Britishimmigrants, and became French-speaking only during the last third of the nineteenth century. Joseph Bonenfant and Richard Giguere then outline the French-languageliterary movement (1925-50) in the Cantons de l'Est and its critical reception, in two articles reprinted from the Revue d'hisloire lilleraire du Qu~bec el du Canada fran94is. The work of Alfred DesRochers and of other writers of the region is presented, with extensive quotation, by Pauline Adam...