Quebec Studies

The Climate of Viol/Violence and Madness in Anne Héberts Les Fous De Bassan

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 170–183.


THE CLIMATE OF VIOL/VIOLENCE AND MADNESS IN ANNE HEBERTS LES FOUS DE BASSAN Annabelle M. Rea Living quietly out of the literary limelight, Anne Hebert has nonetheless been straightforward and generous in discussing her work. In an interview in 1960, for instance, she spoke of the importance of climate and landscape for someone from Quebec: “La terrc que nous habitons dcpuis trois cents ans est tcrre d u Nord ct terre d‘Am6rique; nous lui appartcnons biologiquemcnt commc la flore et la faune. Le climat et le paysage nous ont faqonnes aussi bicn que toutcs les contingences historiques, culturelles, religicuses et linguistiques.”* Anyone who has read her will think immediately of the isolated home near a raging stream of Le Torent, of the cndless snows of Kumouruska, or many other striking cxamplcs of Hbbert’s treatmcnt of climate and landscape. Many of the elements found in these earlier works reappear in Les Fous de Bnssan but, because of the presence of different narrators for each section of the text, we have a number of different images of the physical and psychological climate in the 1982 novel. The first of these comes from the eighty-one-ycarold Pastor, Nicolas Jones, during a night of recollection and meditation. He begins his text with verbless scntcnccs, setting a tone of death and desolation; for him the village of Griffin Creek is black, white and grcy, unlike the “new village” of the ”papists” whose vulgar, vibrant colors irritate him. We lcarn of his reading of the Bible, particularly the Apocalypse, and we understand his description of the landscape in this context. As a child, Nicolas Jones had begged his adored mother Felicity to allow him to swim with her during her pre-dawn forays. Her rejection cut him off from her closeness with nature. Later, in order to try to win her love, he announces to her his decision to become a minister and then practices the development of his voice, the velvet voice that will become his chief tool of seduction, performing his vocal exercises beside the sea in competition with the birds and the wind. Like the other men of Griffin Creek, his “frercs sauvagcs et durs” (p. 401, he hunts and fishes. After his wife’s death, he haunts the seashore by day and

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Author details

Rea, Annabelle