A peculiar war is raging in Quebec’s largest city: one talks about ‘linguistic battles’ being fought daily in the streets of Montreal, where Anglophones are concentrated in the otherwise predominantly French-speaking province. The language dichotomy lies at the heart of Montreal’s cultural history and reflects a relationship fraught with tensions between Canada’s so-called Founding Nations. Following a history of francophone conquest, defeat, and reconquest, the two linguistic communities have at last reached a more harmonious modus vivendi at the turn of the twenty-first century.
Writers have always engaged in and contributed to the debate. But how does contemporary literature broach English-French relations years after such pivotal events in Québécois history as the Quiet Revolution, the FLQ crisis, the implementation of Bill 101 and the two referenda on independence? Neil Bissoondath and Monique Proulx, two authors presently living and writing in Quebec, have scrutinised interactions between Anglophones and Francophones in present-day Montreal and translated cultural memory in their works of narrative fiction. Reading Montreal literature as a contact zone where Self and Other meet and grapple with each other, Stefanie Rudig’s study shows how the clashes with l’Autre leave each side modified, usually for the better.
In Bissoondath’s novel Doing the Heart Good, the protagonist and first-person narrator Alistair Mackenzie takes a retrospective look at his life, during which the monolingual Anglophone has frequently been forced to deal with Francophones. Proulx also places her characters in situations in which they encounter alterity and alienation in her short story collection Les Aurores montréales. In addition to the anglophone or francophone Other, Proulx depicts migrants in her short narratives and how they participate in Montreal’s linguistic duality. Though neither of the two texts is overtly didactic, both Proulx and Bissoondath suggest ways to overcome all remnants of the historically conditioned English-French antagonism and promote an effectively multilingual and pluriethnic Quebec society that thrives on difference.
This edition also includes a ten-page summary in French.