Quebec Studies

Return to Griffin Creek: Communal Trauma in Les fous de Bassan

Quebec Studies (2007), 43, (1), 99–110.

Abstract

99 Return to Griffin Creek: Communal Trauma in Les fous de Bassan Scott W. Lyngaas Beloit College To interpret trauma in literature is to read stories marginalized by the human mind. It is to attempt to understand what could not be fully experienced and integrated into the consciousness of the individual or the community, and that nonetheless manifests itself through language. Such is the interpretative battle running throughout Anne Hébert's 1982 novel, Les fous de Basson. On the night of August 31, 1936, in the community of Griffin Creek, Nora and Olivia Atkins were murdered. Les fous de Bassan textualizes the difficulties of representation and understanding engendered by traumatic experiences. It speaks to us about how we relate to traumatic events in our world. From a distance we encounter traumatic stories affecting communities weekly if not daily: murders, school shootings, terrorism, and car crashes, among many others. But what happens to these traumatic stories as time passes? What becomes of the individuals and the communities? Can they come to terms with these events well after their occurrence? In order to demonstrate the relevance of Les fous de Bassan to these questions, I will begin my essay by interpreting manifestations of trauma within the six texts that make up the novel. Then I will expand the discussion to argue that the trauma is communal in nature. In the final section, I will examine the community's struggle to come to terms with the trauma in 1982. What will emerge is a story of trauma, time, and a community searching for self-representation in the face of a horrible crime. Trauma, Time, and Narrative The six texts of Les fous de Bassan signal trauma through narrative disruptions and temporal relationships. Before turning to the analysis of the text, it is useful to describe what I mean by trauma. Traumatic events are not experienced and understood by the individual in the same way as what may be termed "normal" events. The mind of the individual is unable to assimilate the traumatic event into consciousness, and the traumatic experience is repressed into the unconscious. The individual is unable to be there, in the experience, and unable to consciously remember it or, by extension, to forget it. In her 1996 book, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History, Cathy Caruth writes that a traumatic event exhibits "an inherent latency within the experience itself" (17). This is not to say that all individuals will react the same way to the same event, but rather that when trauma occurs, it occurs from the moment of the event forward. The "inherent latency" stems from the way the individual experiences, or rather doesn't experience, the event. The repressed material then lies beyond the conscious mind, but can nonetheless make its presence known in certain specific ways through dreams, actions, slips and gaps of language, and repetition. Québec Studies, Volume 43, Spring/Summer 2007

Access Token
£25.00

Abraham, Nicolas. "Notules sur le fantôme." L'écorce et le noyau. Eds. Nicolas Abraham et Maria Torok. Paris: Flammarion, 1987. 426-33. L'écorce et le noyau 426 33 Google Scholar

Bishop, Neil B. "Distance, point de vue, voix et idéologie dans Les fous de Bassan d'Anne Hébert." Voix et Images 9.2 (1984): 113-29. Distance, point de vue, voix et idéologie dans Les fous de Bassan d'Anne Hébert Voix et Images 9 113 29 Google Scholar

Boivin, Aurélien. Pour une lecture du roman québécois: De Maria Chapdelaine à Volkswagen blues. Québec: Nuit Blanche, 1996. Pour une lecture du roman québécois: De Maria Chapdelaine à Volkswagen blues Google Scholar

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins U P, 1996. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History Google Scholar

Chevillot, Frédérique. "Tradition et modernité: histoire, narration et récit dans Les fous de Bassan d'Anne Hébert." Quebec Studies. 9 (1989-1990): 121-30. Tradition et modernité: histoire, narration et récit dans Les fous de Bassan d'Anne Hébert Quebec Studies 9 121 30 Google Scholar

Erikson, Kai. "Notes on Trauma and Community." Ed. Cathy Caruth. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins U P, 1995. 183-99. Trauma: Explorations in Memory 183 99 Google Scholar

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Trans. James Strachey. New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 1961. Beyond the Pleasure Principle Google Scholar

Hébert, Anne. Les fous de Bassan. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1982. Les fous de Bassan Google Scholar

Hébert, Anne. Kamouraska. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1970. Kamouraska Google Scholar

Hébert, Anne. Le torrent. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1965. Le torrent Google Scholar

Lee, Scott. "La rhétorique de la folie: métaphore et allégorie dans Les fous de Bassan." Voix et Images 19. 2 (1994): 374-93. La rhétorique de la folie: métaphore et allégorie dans Les fous de Bassan." Voix et Images 19 374 93 Google Scholar

Paterson, Janet M. Anne Hébert: architexture romanesque. Ottawa: P U d'Ottawa, 1985. Anne Hébert: architexture romanesque Google Scholar

Randall, Marilyn. "Les énigmes des Fous de Bassan: féminisme, narration et clôture." Voix et Images 15.1 (1989): 66-82. Les énigmes des Fous de Bassan: féminisme, narration et clôture Voix et Images 15 66 82 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Lyngaas, Scott