Quebec Studies

Names, Nomads, and New Editions: Investigating Identity in Guèvremont's Le Survenant

Quebec Studies (2012), 54, (2), 7–20.

Abstract

7 7 Names, Nomads, and and New New Editions: Editions: Investigating Investigating Identity Identity in in Guèvremont's Le Survenant Survenant Kathryn Droske University of Minnesota When Germaine Guèvremont's title character, le Survenant, arrives in Chenal du Moine with a calm and steadfast refusal to answer the inhabitants' queries regarding his given name and ancestry, characters quickly grow obsessed with theories of his identity and origins. Scholars, Scholars, too, too, have have persisted in this line of questioning, attempting to unravel the mystery of le Survenant's identity with varied and rich approaches. In this investigation into Le Survenant, Survenant, I seek to recast questions of identity and ancestry through the character, or more accurately the name(s), of Blanche Varieur. Undoubtedly because of her diminutive development in Le Survenant Survenant (Blanche Varieur does not speak, act, or appear anywhere within the diegesis diegesis1 and all access to her character is therefore referential and removed), much scholarship on the novel overlooks her entirely. I propose, however, that the very utterance of her name(s) calls attention to the work of remembrance, repression, and re-imagination within the text, and demands a reformulation of our understanding of the title character's identity and origins. 1 Blancheur Varié Blancheur Varié Blanche Varieur bears two names in Guèvremont's novel. Given the initially exclusive exclusive use of her sobriquet "L'Acayenne" "L'Acayenne" and the menace she presents as a potential intruder into the putatively homogenous community of Chenal du Moine, parallels between Blanche Blanche Varieur and le Survenant are immediately apparent. apparent. Their correlation grows stronger when le Survenant supplies a verbal portrait of the woman to a group of neighbors who have gathered at the home of the Beauchemins Beauchemins where he is staying. He describes, "Puis, c'est une personne blonde, quasiment rousse [...]. La peau blanche comme du lait et les joues rouges à en saigner" (Guèvremont 2005, 2005, 188). He adds that her eyes are changing, that they are "tantôt gris, tantôt verts, tantôt bleus" (188). These descriptions are uncannily reminiscent of those that Angelina gives of le Survenant earlier in the novel: Ses yeux gris-bleu, gais à l'ordinaire, avaient un reflet de tristesse Ses au repos; [...] [...] sa chevelure rebelle et frisée dru, d'un roux flamboyant, descendait bas dans le cou. [...] [...] elle avait vu à la naissance de la nuque une éclaircie éclaircie de peau blanche, trop blanche pour un homme, une peau fine, il lui semblait. (38) (38) The corresponding imagery of red-blond hair, grey-blue eyes, and strikThe ingly white skin reinforce the analogy between le Survenant and Blanche Blanche Varieur. The two also share a quality in their distinctive and delightful laughter. Le Survenant describes Blanche Blanche Varieur's laugh, declaring "Quand elle rit, c'est ben simple, le meilleur des hommes renierait Père et Special Issue, Fall 2012 2012

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Droske, Kathryn