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HUMANITIES 215 Yves Theriault se raconte: Entretiens avec Andre Carpentier VLB. ,88. $25.00 H,mme Lafrance. Yves Theriault et ['institution litteraire quebicoise Institu! quei>ecois de recherche sur la culture '984. '74· $'3.50 These two books on the major Quebec novelist, short-story writer, and mamatist, who clied in 1983, are in many ways complementary. The more important of the two, Helene Lafrance's study of the reception of Theriault's work and of his place in the literary firmament, bases some of its first part, 'Strategies d'acces au champ litteraire,' on the Raclio-Canada PM series, Yves Theriault se racon!e, broadcast in the summer of 1982; the eclited version of these same free-wheeling discussions makes up the second volume. Secondly, the two books happily treat in a critical manner the self-created myths which Theriault unrelentingly spun around his person and literary activity. Also, Theriault's son, Michel, in his preface to Yves Theriault seraeonte ..., singled out Lafrance's studyand Carpentier's introduction to his interviews with the writer as two exceptions to the list of conventional analyses which skirt 'les problemes essentiels.' Lafrance's book, most remarkable as an MA (or even PH o!) thesis, is divided into three sections. The first traces the evolution of Theriault to what the author calls the status of'producteur ambivalent,' because of his presence in the fields of both literary and 'paraliterary' activity. The second probes his relations with 'Ies instances de legitimation et de consecration de !'institutionlitteraire,' while the last examines the cliverse facets of his literary activity, including his writing for raclio and TV, and his pulp output under a pseudonym. Helene Lafrance has modelled hermethodological approach on those of Pierre Bourclieu, Hans Robert Jauss, and Jacques Dubois, while taking care to adapt them to the concrete situation of Quebec. As noted above, Lafrance scores Theriault's'propension ... II entretenir des mythes et II projeter des images gratifiantes de lui-meme,' an activity which seems to have aimed at compensatingfor his'faible capital culturel et scolaire.' She also fmds ambivalence not only in his literary status, but also in his contradictory attitudes towards the value system of the establishment: 'son refus paradoxal des valeurs de la petite-bourgeoisie ne concerne pas les valeurs economiques de cette classe.' In other words, Theriault's aggressive rejection of the elitism of the literary institution does not stop him from adopting ahighly commercial (and, in the 'Volpek' series, for instance, a politically opportunist) attitude to his literary production. This leads Lafrance eventually to conclude that Theriault evolved from a stance of rebellion to one of accommodation: 'L'ideologie vehiculee dans les romans de Theriault est toujours ambigue en ce sens qu'elle s'oppose au code de valeurs dominant tout en I'enterinant de fa~on subtile.' Although she does not elaborate on this, her critical positionis highiy significant, for almost all commentators (includingsome of the most astute, like Andre Brochu) have fallen into the trap of accepting holus-bolus the author's pretensions to documentary realism in 'Native' novels like Agaguk (or in works like Aaron, centred on ethnic minorities). In this regard, Lafrance refers to a revealing comment by Theriault during an interview with her in 1982, in which he said that one of the reasons for choosing'exotic' milieus in his works was that'ce genre lui perrnettait de faire parler ses personnages asa guise sans s'attirer les foudres de la critique. En utilisant des personnages quebecois, il auraitete force de surveiller leurs paroles et leurs actes.' Another plus of Lafrance's study is her comparative analysis of the novel Ashini (1960) and its radio-drama predecessor, Pejano (1958), as well as of the two adaptations of Aaron (radio version, 1952); first published version, 1954). While she shows how the latter case, in which the original Aaron converts to Catholicism, is an example of Theriault's'adaptability' to a different medium (and a different 'moment: a pre-Easter broadcast), Lafrance falls short of seeing here, too, a striking example of Theriault's·commercialism-opportunism. Similar weaknesses and errors appear here and there. A 1964 article on the corpus of Theriault's work in the...


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pp. 215-217
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