“Jacques Poulin is one of the finest and most underrated novelists in Quebec. Volkswagen Blues confirms his calibre as a writer, and may give him the. 1 The year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of Governor General’s Award-winner Jacques Poulin’s popular novel Volkswagen Blues. The novel Volkswagen Blues is a novel that was written by Jacques Poulin. It was originally published in French in , and was translated into English in
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Their quest involves a nostalgic search for traces of the colonial French presence in North America, but it reveals nothing concrete.
Harel sees this as an escapist search for the absolute that ultimately reconfirms the new reality of the hybrid nature of Quebec In order to promote a move toward a more tolerant and diverse society, Piulin embraces the hybrid as an alternative for Quebec.
The novel does, after all, acknowledge the violence and genocide that permitted the colonization and settlement of the Americas. It is important to acknowledge, however, that while this approach certainly has its value, it also has its limitations.
By portraying Native culture as dying or dead and presenting hybrid culture as the only viable solution for Quebec, Poulin threatens to eliminate the Native, replacing it instead with a new, generic hybrid. Where it breaks down, however, is in its portrayal of Indigeneity. Poulin, like countless other writers in Canada and Quebec, and in spite of ostensibly good intentions, falls into the trap of using the figure of the Native to further his jacqes ends—in this case, the volkswaegn of a hybrid society.
In doing so, opulin not only perpetuates stereotypes and the myth of the bluds and dying Indian but also threatens to eliminate Native cultures altogether. While this reading is generally intended by scholars and teachers to affirm the human dignity of Aboriginal peoples, it ironically erases one of the most fundamental aspects of Indigenous survival: The value of both postmodern and postcolonial approaches to literature is undeniable, but, as with any movement, there are limits to what they can accomplish.
Twenty-five years after its publication, it is important to look at Volkswagen Blues in a new light; the novel is a product of its time and should be examined as such. Poulin presents as a model of the new Quebecker. At times these characteristics are so exaggerated that it seems his intent is humour; however, there is a contradiction here: One page later, when he picks her up on the side of the road, she is still barefoot and will not enter the van until the cat explores it and ensures that it is safe.
Significantly, like a guide, it is she who acts as a vehicle to help Jack awaken from stagnation; pouln, she acts as the tool with which Poulin constructs his proposal for a new Quebec.
What makes it destructive to Aboriginal culture is the misrepresentation of Native people through the reinforcement of stereotypes and vokkswagen concerning Indigenous populations.
Poulin describes a Quebec, in fact, that seems to identify with Native peoples, giving Quebec an air of authenticity and a sense of entitlement denied to Canada outside Quebec or the United States.
The novel suggests that the French have a deep and respectful bond with Native peoples — arguably brought about by a shared sense of marginalization from the mainstream anglophone culture. Later, however, she contradicts herself, which demonstrates the extent to which she is a vehicle for the author. The same, of course, applies in Canada outside Quebec. As Justice points out, this is highly hypocritical.
This is not to say, however, that there are no examples of potential change. To date, this has not been the case; it remains to be seen whether or not he will honour this commitment.
The reinforcement of stereotypes is a problem dis-cussed during the appropriation-of-voice debates in the s and early s. These myths are often tied to nationhood since Indigeneity is frequently used by Canadian anglo-phones and francophones alike in order to create unique national identities that will distinguish them from Europeans, as well as Americans, and ultimately give them a greater sense of entitlement to the land.
This results jaccques only in misrepresentation but also in exploitation. Throughout the novel, in fact, La Grand Sauterelle encounters numerous hybrid authors who serve as examples of what she can be.
Significantly, neither of these examples has Aboriginal origins. It is, of course, a very convenient conception since a dead or dying people does colkswagen need any consideration or rights.
This perception also allows Euro-Canadians to feel a guilty nostalgia about the past and about the disappearance of Indigenous peoples rather than dealing with the effects of colonization in the present. The only other Native person we see is her mother, who is herself portrayed as a kind of artifact since she works in a pouljn.
In fact, the only Native figures that seem to offer any sense of community are themselves dead. It is hardly surprising when this plan fails — vollkswagen with dead Indians does not do much for her sense of self: With no chance of building community in volkswayen present, la Grande Sauterelle suffers from blus sort of nostalgic melancholia and spends a great deal ooulin time looking off into the horizon: Bowing bluew the Indians who once occupied the island of Alcatraz, she resigns herself to the myth of the vanishing Indian: This reaction poklin particularly significant since the occupation of Alcatraz is such a powerful symbol of resistance and so significant an event in Aboriginal claims for jaqcues and sovereignty.
Between November and June pohlin, over 5, Native Americans from 20 different tribes occupied the island of Alcatraz, which had been left unused after its prison was closed in They were demanding rights for Native Americans and wanted the island to be returned to Indigenous peoples.
The occupation was a turning point in Native claims for human rights; although the island was never returned, the occupation forced Americans to recognize and take the claims of Native peoples seriously. Indigeneity in Volkswagen Blues seems to exist only in pre-contact times, and it seems that it is impossible for Aboriginal peoples to embrace both a pre-contact and contemporary world.
She is conflicted, once again, between the artificial binaries of the pre-modern Indian and the modern white man: Indigeneity is essentialized here to represent the opposite of the civilized and modern European; Native peoples seem incapable of adapting; they are portrayed as capable jcaques thriving only in nature — without modern conveniences such as electricity.
Like Volkswagen BluesHyman seems to lament the disappearance of Native culture. Hyman is quite right to signal the fact that the loss of Aboriginal languages has had a huge and negative impact on Native communities, but he does not acknowledge the fact that Indigenous cultures continue to survive and adapt in spite of this. Among many others, Cree scholar Emma LaRocque believes that English has become a Volkswaben language, since it has been used by Indigenous peoples for centuries and has been modified to suit their needs xxvi.
The same can be said of French for Native peoples in Quebec.
The portrayal of print culture as foreign or not a part of Native cultures is an essentialization of Indigenous experience. This is why she chooses to stay in the melting pot that is San Francisco instead of returning home: Immigrant and ethnic groups are certainly deserving of recognition, but their situation is altogether different from that of Aboriginal peoples. There is one significant difference between the two that Poulin volkswage to signal, however.
He uses all the stereotypes of aboriginality to describe her; thus, he foregrounds her Native identity only to erase it later on; he removes her agency by leaving her in San Francisco with all the other hybrids. Denying Native communities First Jacqkes status suggests that they bljes no claim to their lands, history, memory, cultural continuity, or to their rights as original inhabitants of volskwagen land. While it is true that this story is written from the perspective of a white Quebecker — and is therefore representative of a non-Native perspective — the representation of Aboriginal peoples by a non-Native author can, as we have seen, perpetuate damaging stereotypes.
There is a long and very significant Aboriginal literary tradition of Indigenous peoples returning home with the goal of rebuilding community, however difficult this proves to be. There is always the risk that books such as Volkswagen Blues — much more publicized and accessible jacquee Native-authored works — volkswwagen become the only portrayals of Aboriginal experience to which most non-Natives are exposed, leading to the perpetuation of the dangerous stereotypes and misconceptions we have seen.
If anything, this government clause made Native women all the more determined to return to their communities, and many did return after it was reversed with Bill C Up to this point, it could be argued that these events are critical of hybridity — until La Grande Sauterelle announces how happy she is in San Francisco.
To say that this is unity, however, is false since, as we have seen, Indigeneity is ultimately removed. It would be a more accurate unity to promote a dialogue between two distinct individuals or nations, poulinn than combine them in one generic whole.
Replacing the Native with the hybrid amounts, therefore, to assimilation, and a failure to discuss these politics in Volkswagen Blues only perpetuates erasure.
There is no doubt that cultures, particularly those that live side by side, influence each other profoundly, and this influence is even more pronounced in an age of globalization.
boues The very persistence of Native ovlkswagen in such an era, however, is testament to their endurance. Hybridity, as Weaver explains, does not necessitate a loss of culture: In order to survive, cultures must be able to adapt, and there is no reason not to acknowledge more than one cultural influence, or one influence in particular. This was arguably, after all, the goal of both the postmodern and postcolonial movements. Tired of being referred to as hybrids, many Native people have chosen to assert their Native status.
Twenty-five years ago, Poulin undertook to demonstrate to what degree the continent was constructed on violence, and he produced a successful and popular work that continues to attract readers. A work so greatly admired clearly opulin many, and so to abandon its study is certainly not the answer — it is an artful assembly of postmodern intertexts and a telling portrait of the period it describes.
What should be made clear, however, is the degree to which it is a product of its times and not a model for the future. Both the postmodern and post-colonial movements have served their purposes and have uncovered injustices and imbalances, but Indigenous cultures in Quebec and Canada are far from dying or pojlin, and concrete change is something that requires expression in culture and in literature.
The best approach might be precisely the jacqued Duceppe suggested in his apology to residential school survivors: Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat. U of California P, Affirming the Sovereignty of Indigenous National Literatures.
The Shifting Spaces of Canadian Literature. The Native in Literature: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives. Native Women of Western Canada. Jeanne Perreault and Sylvia Vance.
Volkswagen Blues – Wikipedia
Volkswagen blues et La Petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes. Editions Nota bene, American Indian Literary Nationalism. U of New Mexico P, The myth of the dead and dying Indian is well established and has been examined by many writers.
Curtis, famous for his portraits of Native peoples, actually removed all traces of modernity in his pictures.