The study of Montreal as a specific location in French and English writings has long been subordinated to the demands of linguistically divided and politically contentious narratives about national development. In this cross-linguistic study, Patrick Coleman models an inclusive and post-national literary history of the city itself.
Tracing a sequence of moments in the emergence of the Montreal novel from World War II to the turbulent 1960s, Equivocal City offers close readings of fourteen key works of fiction, focusing on the inner dynamic of their construction as well as the unexpected convergences and contrasts in the narrative structures they adopt and the aesthetic perspective they seek to achieve.
Critically sophisticated but accessibly written, this book gives a sympathetic account of how writers in both languages struggled to give integrated artistic expression to their experience of a city that was still linguistically compartmentalized and culturally insecure. By analyzing the interplay between story and narrative form, the book explores what French and English novelists could – and could not – imagine about the Montreal they sought to portray. From the responsible realism of Hugh MacLennan and Gabrielle Roy to the fractious phantasmagorias of Jacques Ferron and Leonard Cohen, Equivocal City traces the evolution of the Montreal novel with the
aim of retrieving a shareable literary past.
Patrick Coleman is Research Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Click here for more information on Professor Coleman.