The impossible anamesis. Memory versus history in Hubert Aquin’s « Blackout »
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofCross-cultural studies ; vol. 20, pp. 225-240.
Soon after joining the Canadian Confederation in 1867, the province of Quebec adopted the phrase « Je me souviens » ("As I recall") as its "national" motto, although many Québécois do not remember today what they were supposed to memorize, as collective subject, when their government voted this motion. My thesis is that contrary to other countries which have a strong sense of history based on a secular tradition, this process was more complicated in Quebec — as if a collective memory loss lied at the heart of it's history. Through a rereading of Hubert Aquin's cult novel, Trou de mémoire (in its English translation Blackout), first published in 1968, I try to illustrate this paradox and to emphasize the heuristic functions of memory blanks, gaps and lapses in certain postmodern narratives, after the historical breakdown of "the great narratives" (Lyotard). In this perspective, the example of Quebec, through the voice of one of its more gifted yet controversial novelist, can be seen as emblematic of what happens when the mnemonic impossibility of rewriting history opens up new possibilities for writing fiction.