Quebec Studies

When "Next Episodes" Are No Longer an Option: Quebec Men's Writing in a Postfeminist, Postnationalist Age

Quebec Studies (2000), 30, (1), 28–43.

Abstract

28 When "Next Episodes" Are No Longer an Option: Quebec Men's Writing in a Postfeminist, Postnationalist Age By Patricia Smart Carleton University In Hubert Aquin's 1965 novel Prochain épisode, the narrator fights off suicidal depression by clinging to the idea of a revolution that will liberate his country and transform him into the powerful male figure he dreams of becoming: one who drives fast cars, hobnobs with European aristocrats, is triumphant in love and adores exquisite wines, food, and art. Often seen by readers as a figure emblematic of his generation, he considers his lack of identity and sense of failure to be a result of Quebec's dominated status and therefore sees it as his­ torically reversible. The burden he carries is paradoxically lightened by its very "immensity," its "sublime dimensions": En moi, déprimé explosif, toute une nation s'aplatit historiquement et raconte son enfance perdue, par bouffées de mots bégayés et de délires scripturaires et, sous le choc noir de la lucidité, se met soudain à pleurer devant l'immensité du désastre et l'envergure quasi sublime de son échec. (25) Aquin's narrator is of course a mirror reflection of himself, confined to the "prison" of a psychiatric ward while awaiting trial for terrorist activities, and feeling psychologically unstable and close to despair. Like his creator, he writes to fill the emptiness of his days, and imagines the book he is writing as a love letter addressed to an idealized woman inseparable in his mind from his beloved country. Addressing her he addresses his entire people, his writing thus becomes an act of redemption, drawing him forward with lyrical intensity toward the promise not only of love but of collective liberation: Pour t'écrire, je m'adresse à tout le monde. L'amour est le cycle de la parole. Je t'écris infiniment et j'invente sans cesse le cantique que j'ai lu dans tes yeux; par mes mots, je pose mes lèvres sur la chair brûlante de mon pays et je t'aime désespérément comme au jour de notre première communion. (70) Three decades after Prochain épisode, the talented young writer MaximeOlivier Moutier has produced two autobiographical "novels" 1 that bear a remarkable resemblance to Aquin's work, not only by their narrative situation but by their tone of somewhat desperate lyricism. In Marie-Hélène au mois de mars (1998),2 the published version of a journal written while Moutier was interned in the psychiatric ward of a Sherbrooke hospital after a suicide attempt, his nar­ rator records and analyses his obsession with the woman he loves, whose infi­ delity was the immediate cause of his self-destructive act. Moutier's next published work, Les tâtres à mademoiselle Brochu (1999),3 consists of a series of letters written over a period of six weeks to an apparently real woman whom the author claims to have chosen "almost at random" to be the recipient of his love, the "Other" to whom he can reveal himself totally: Québec Studies, Volume 30, Fall/Winter 2000

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Smart, Patricia