The Art and Genius of Anne Hébert: Essays on Her Works : Night and the Day Are One

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Voracious Bodies in Blais's
and Hébert's Parisian Novels

NANCY ARENBERG

Marie-Claire Blais's Une liaison parisienne, published in 1982, differs significantly from her other novels, which are situated in Québec. In this text, the reader embarks on a discovery of the old European continent from the point of view of a writer from Montreal. Blais's narrative perspective places the protagonist, Mathieu Lelièvre, in the role of the naive, provincial outsider who travels to Paris in the hope of fulfilling his artistic and literary dreams. However, Mathieu's ideals soon begin to fade after he becomes a frequent visitor to an elite Parisian writer's salon, only to discover the mediocrity, debauchery, and greed of this aristocratic milieu. Marie-Claire Biais integrates this social critique into the novel by the construction of a network of body images, carefully interwoven into the narrative's frame. The characters' hearty appetite is creatively expressed through the symbolic expansion of the corporeal proportions of the Parisian elite; their bodies resemble a gigantic digestive tube that celebrates the joy of life's greatest culinary pleasures.

Contrasting radically with Blais's generous physical dimensions, Hébert's novel, Héloïse, published in 1980, portrays the body of the vampire, Héloïse, as an emaciated form. In Hébert's nocturnal universe, the skeletal, but nonetheless majestic, consumers may differ radically from Blais's characters' vital body images, but their hunger also shows some striking instances of vampiric resemblances. For example, Héloïse also takes place in Paris, but Hébert alters the body imagery; her vampires reject food in favor of liquid sustenance to be found in the surrealistic settings of places like the Parisian métro. For Anne Hébert, vampirism is a death metaphor that draws the reader into the remote, obscure region beneath the métro, which constitutes the locus of her architectural space.

In this discussion, the body images of life and death as well as the vampirism parallel will be considered, and at the same time a close reading

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