Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (1993), 16, (1), 131–144.


Quebec Studies, No. 16, 1993 BOOK REVIEWS MARCATO-FALZONI, FRANCA. Du mythe uu rumun: Une mbgie duchrmienne. Trans. Javier Garcia Mendez. Montreal: VLB Editeur, 1992. pp. 264. Marcato-Falzoni's book, though not without some disappointments, is meritorious in its right as well as a valuable entry into the vast body of Italian criticism of Quebecois literature. It consists of a brief introduction and three essays which present a unifying critical vision of Rejean Ducharmes's first three novels - Oc6antume, L'avde des a d s , and Le nez qui uoque. Because of their order of composition and the repetition of central themes, the author contends that these novels form a trilogy. In spite of "le vaste debat" concerning order of composition, Marcato-Falzoni only addresses this issue briefly in a cryptic foomote at the end of her introduction which assures us that Ducharme himself, through an unnamed third party, has confided to the author that her chronology is, in fact, "l'ordre exact" (13). Other than the terse treatment of this issue, the extended rationale for treating these novels together is twofold. First, each has "une forme tripartite: il narre la formation d'un ideal, la tentative de le realiser et son echec selon un trace qui correspond a I'enfance, la jeunesse et I'gge adulte" (12). Second, this tripartite structure is reproduced in the ensemble of the three novels in that Ociantume presents the failure of a mythic, child-like ideal, while L'avde des a v d s recounts the failure of adolescent religious ideals, and Le nez qui voque presents the adult's disillusionment at encountering the linear inevitability of history conceived of as a "chaine d'evenements qui ne laisse place a aucune illusion" (13). The only thing lacking in this argument is a solid justification for categorically associating myth with childhood, religion with adolescence and history with adulthood. Nonetheless, the progression is evident and its analysis valid. Marcato-Falmni's first essay deals with the theme of the failed quest in Ochtume centering on the "opposition entre realit6 et Mythe." The capitalization of mythe is meant to distinguish between two realms. Capitalized the word refers to Eliade's definition of myth as "tradition sacree, revelation primordiale, modele exemplaire" (18, footnote) while myhe refers to all other acceptations of the word. lode, the f i i t person nanator of the novel, is presented as seeking to reestablish the dominance of Mythe in a world that recognizes only mythes. This dicothomy becomes problematic when, for example, Marcato-Falmni talks of Asie Azothe as "originaire d'un monde feerique" (39), a realm with aspects of both Mythe and mythe. Another unfortunate consequence of this purely abstract conception of myth is that most of Ducharme's intriguing use of actual mythological material gets ignored. After all lode is cr6mise, her mother a libertine, her father an intellectual, and her brother intially presented as a retarded, animal-like child who lives curled up in a windowless room deep within the grounded, island-like steamer the family calls home. The second essay analyzes L " a d e des a d s with an emphasis on the stifling conflict within the narrator's world between Judaism and Christianity. Overall, Marcato-Falzoni's arguments are sound and meticulously documented. Nonetheless, she tends to belabor certain points. For example, having aptly proven Berenice's brother Christian to be a Christ figure, she continues to refer to him forty-two times in sixty-two pages and as often as five times on a page as "Christ[ian]." In a similar fashion, she refers repetitively to Berenice's father as "Einberg (Dieu le fire)" She also tends to string widely separated short quotations together with bracketed points de suspension and/or a few words or lines of transitional prose. In moderation, this is an effective way for Ducharme's text to speak for itself within the context of the critic's efforts. However, when frequently confronted with such passages as long as six pages, one begins to wonder if the absence of quoted text is not just as important as its presence. Dependency on this technique risks becoming a radical editing or rearrangement of Duchamre's text rather than valid critical analysis. This reviewer also takes issue with the exclusive emphasis on Jewish and Christian religious themes. Such an emphasis again ignores the richness of Ducharme's use of intertextual and intercultural allusions to Greek and Roman mythology and literature as well as Native American own

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