Quebec Studies

Où placer les bombes? Art and Violence in Wajdi Mouawad's Le sang des promesses

Quebec Studies (2012), 54, (1), 77–88.

Abstract

77 Où placer les bombes? Art and Violence in Wajdi Mouawad's Le sang des promesses Olivia Choplin Elon University Over a period of sixteen years, Lebanese-Québécois playwright Wajdi Mouawad wrote, collaborated on, and directed the four plays that make up his quatuor, Le sang des promesses. Critics have often commented on Mouawad's work in the context of literature of exile, and have made com­ parisons between Mouawad and his exiled characters. Several authors have examined Mouawad's biography and the trauma of the Lebanese civil war evoked in Littoral and Incendies.1 This article examines Mouawad's rep­ resentations of art and artistic endeavor in relation to violence as thematic and structural elements of the plays that comprise the cycle Le sang des promesses. In Littoral, the opening play, Mouawad offers a message of hope via an Artaudian hypothesis: that theater can act as "une bombe dans la tête des gens" and can replace violence in the real world with a creative act that brings about self-consciousness. His characters find community and solace despite their dark pasts as they come together to form a theater troupe. The next two plays, Incendies and Forêts, offer ultimately hopeful messages about the possibility of community and friendship despite tragic horrors experienced or discovered by their characters. The final play of the sequence, Ciels, closes the cycle of Le sang des promesses in an entirely dif­ ferent way. The figurative "bombe dans la tête des gens" that is the the­ atrical spectacle imagined by Littoral's Simone is replaced by literal bombs. Mouawad destructively links art and violence as Tintoret's painting of the Annunciation maps out a terrorist attack on museums in the world's most affluent countries. In his Preface to Ciels, Mouawad states that "tout ou presque" separates it from the three other plays, and that he envisions it as the hypotenuse of the triangle formed by the other works. By examining the first and last plays of the cycle, this essay theorizes how Le sang des promesses engages with themes of art, the artistic endeavor, and violence.2 Littoral: Theater and Community The play Littoral tells the story of a young man named Wilfrid, who osten­ sibly lives in Canada (although the country is never named) and learns of the death of his father (Thomas/Ismail) 3 one night thanks to a telephone call that interrupts his amorous exploits with a woman he barely knows. Now an orphan (his mother died in childbirth), Wilfrid begins seriously to question his identity and origins. After his aunts and uncles refuse to bury his father beside his mother in the family crypt, Wilfrid decides to take his father's body to his homeland to be buried. When Wilfrid arrives, however, he learns that there is no room in the cemetery of his father's native village for any more bodies — especially not Québec Studies, Volume 54, Fall 2012/Winter 2013

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Choplin, Olivia