Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Paris-Québec

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Paris-Québec

Article excerpt

C. Bertrand (ed.), photographs by Miles Lowry, Paris-Québec, trans. S. Scobie and M. Vautier (Victoria: Ekstatis Editions, 2003), 180pp. Paper. $21.95. ISBN 1-8948-0035- 4.

My research into French travel-writing practices reveals anatomical similarities in the nonfictional prose texts of Annie Ernaux, Roland Barthes and others (C. Mansfield, 'Lire L'Empire des signes de Barthes comme écriture de voyage' in Y. Kaniike, S. Kadowaki and Y. Kobayashi (eds), Bulletin: BARTHES - Résonances des sens (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Centre for Philosophy, 2004), http://hdl.handle.net/1842/651), so reviewing the poetry in Paris Québec is an excellent opportunity to test this anatomy of themes against a writing practice much further along the literary spectrum. This spectrum of travel-writing practices may be imagined as stretching from non-fictional, highly functional maps and guide books, through phrase books for the traveller, to journals of expeditions, anthropological reports, travel accounts, travel stories and on into ever-more creative practices like theatre and poetry. These translations of verse by Stephen Scobie and Marie Vautier, edited by Claudine Bertrand after an original Québécois-French collection, probably constitute the far end of the spectrum of what may be studied as travel writing practice.

Travel writing practices construct identity by exploiting the real; that is, the implied 'real' presence of the narrator on the journey, encountering the signs in the new, visited place. This theoretical proposition is not avoided in Bertrand's introduction to the translations of travel verse: 'This work assembles some brief poetic moments which translate everyday signs and reflect an undeniable passion for language. In this verbal wager that is Paris, the imaginary overrides the real.' (p. 13.)

In her own contribution to the twenty or so poems, Bertrand brings together the narrator's body, verbs of movement and a recognition of signs in a single phrase: 'I slide the length of your body/ and we drift along kisses/ in the undergrowth/ where is written/ the alphabet of flesh' (p. 19).

Denise Boucher, too, draws attention to how the narrator's bodily presence in the travel narrative is implied, and how simultaneously the narrator's own identity is interrogated while on the quest or journey: 'or perhaps i was also looking/ inside myself/[] i wandered the banks of the Seine' (p. …

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