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Canadian Review of American Studies/ Revue amadiemied'etudesamencaines Volume 27, Number 1, 1997, pp. 93-118 The End of America: Geology and Cartography in Herman Melville's Pierre and Victor-Levy Beaulieu's Voyageries Jean-Franfois Leroux 93 What would it mean were someone to proclaim, in a certain apocalyptic tone, "the Time is near, the End of America is at hand?" In "Hawthorne and His Mosses," Herman Melville announces "the coming of the literary Shiloh of America," whose advent is further to herald and to prepare for that "political supremacy among the nations, which prophetically awaits [America] at the close of the present century" (Melville [1850] 1967, 550, 546). According to this version of the End, the ark of Truth would find its final sanctuary in the democratic republic with the American Shiloh. In spite of this nationalist, fin de siecle rendering, such apocalypticism is not endemic solely to nineteenth-century America. In his Monsieur Melville (1978) and Les Voyageries (1973-83; published separately), Victor-Levy Beaulieu, a contemporary quebecois author and polemicist, appropriates the American rhetoric of the New Frontier and the New Man for his own purposes. With Melville as literary co-conspirator, Beaulieu undertakes the accomplishment of La Grande Tribu., a Homeric reconstruction of Quebec's origins. Paradoxically , however, Monsieur Mel11ille discerns the roots of Quebec's future grandeur not in the earthbound past, but in the starlit firmament of the coming New World (Beaulieu 1978, vol. 3, 129). 94 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadzenne d'etudes americaines Prophetically assured as it seems of its destiny and its destination, its beginning and its end, the tone of Melville's and Beaulieu's romantic nationalism apparently brooks no distortion. There is certainly no mistaking their avidity for a timeless parousia that would, at last, inaugurate the millennial kingdom here on earth. And yet, read in terms of the limits to the romantic imaginary that they expose to view, Melville's geological excavations in Pierre ([1852] 1949; hereafter cited as P) and Beaulieu's topographical excursions in Les Voyageries involve a double take on the imaginative geography of the New World. Their exploration of the cultural space of North America suggests that neither the American nor the quebecois identity can be fixed by narrative. On the contrary, these works enfold the apocalyptic impulse within a literature of exhaustion; so that, in the end, the writings of Melville and Beaulieu portend, not the apocalyptic unveiling of some true world to come, but the apocalypse of Earth's romance. Mapping out the convergence of these visionary accounts of nationhood will require a two-way reading: it must be shown, first, to what end Beaulieu assumes the American project as his own, and second, the extent to which Melville's work fully anticipates the oblivious nature of this enterprise. 11 Je ,n'appelle Herman Melville. Mettons" (Beaulieu 1978, vol. 2, 159). Victor-Levy Beaulieu's Melvillean Voyageries, it might be mooted, begins with this astonishing legerdemain. Fictionalizing himself by way of his persona Abel Beauchemin, Beaulieu forsakes the fixed coordinates of his birthplace and arrogates the American Ishmael's quest for spiritual and political regeneration in the wilderness. Or, to put it otherwise, Beaulieu poses as Melville en franfais and thus translates him into French America. The epic journey recharted continually displaces the dividing line-the imaginary forty-second parallel-between quebecitude and americanite. In Monsieur Melville, the distance that separates Mattavinie and Berkshire is quickly collapsed as the speeding red Cadillac with fin-like pinions devours the highway. Such breakneck velocity tends to unmoor objects from their territorial and tellurian bearings, transforming points and reliefs into a map of transversal lines. 11 C'est toujours ainsi que 98 se passe quand on commence une chasse," Beauchemin remarks, "on a juste !es yeux assez grands pour avaler des kilometres et des kilometres de route, tendu comme c'est pas Jean-Fraru;ois Leroux I 95 possible vers l'objectif" (Beaulieu 1978, vol. 1, 159-60). At the limit, speed culminates in a disorienting species of translatability: landscapes become impalpable, diaphanous, deterritorialized. Speedkills. By the second volume of the tripartite Monsieur Meluille, Mattavinie, Quebec, has become a holographic double of...


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