Pour tous ceux, pour toutes celles que tente le dehors,
pour la tribu des voyageurs-voyants,
pour le grand fleuve et la côte fracturée,
pour le monde multiple retrouvé.
(Kenneth White – La route bleue – 1983)
For the Great Work Field
(Kenneth White – The Blue Road - 1990)
Are you ready to share our new adventure? If so, I invite you to follow us, for a whole month, on ‘the blue road’ which will go from Montreal up to the north coast of Quebec. Scotiana will keep running during our travel, more than ever! We have readers up there, in the Inuit country, and we’ll feel closer to them
Isn’t that thrilling?
So, next Friday, early in the morning, Jean-Claude and I are going to fly off from the airport of Mérignac, near Bordeaux…
…and, after crossing over the ocean for a distance of about 5713 kilometers (3549 miles), we’ll land at Montreal’s PET airport, about eight hours later, where Janice and her Dad will be waiting for us! How eager we are to meet them! Iain and Margaret are going to receive their map soon and so they will be able to follow our blue road itinerary, day after day…
WOW! The Montreal’s version of a skyscrapers horizon! Can’t wait to discover the big city!
But before going on, and just to give everybody an idea of the size of the province of Quebec, I would like to add a few geographical notes : with 1 667 926 km², it is three times greater than France (550 000 km2) which is seven times greater than Scotland (78 783 km²) but the question of size is relative… and small is beautiful too, isn’t it!
Now, let us come back to the ‘blue road’. It’s a very expressive name which conjures up a lot of inviting images especially when we associate it with the colourful province of Quebec and the mythical Saint Lawrence River. For us, the name is definitely associated with The Blue Road, a fascinating autobiographical travel book written by Kenneth White in 1983 and which relates his adventures from Montreal to Labrador.
Kenneth White is one of our favourite writers, even if we have not read all of his books, far from it. Indeed, there are many of them and in different genres (poetry, essays, travel books) but all have been written in the same spirit and with the same purpose. We have already bought most of these books and we are quite eager to immerse in them. It will be our reading for ‘les longues soirées d’hiver’ when we come back from our Quebec expedition. I remember how happy I was, last year, to add Eloge du Corbeau to my library. That day, I had been queuing for hours, under a scorching sun, in front of the Bordeaux mediathèque, at the time of their great book sale, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when, on entering this literary temple, I discovered, among the few and rather uninteresting books which still lay on the tables, the 1985 grand format William Blake edition of this book of poetry. One of the library women told me I was quite lucky to have found such a book and she added that there was a complete collection of Kenneth White’s books at the library of Montaigne University, in Talence. He is well known and much loved in Bordeaux and Aquitaine where he has lived and taught for a number of years. The first of Kenneth White’s books I read is Letters from Gourgounel and I read it quickly and with much pleasure, copying long passages in a beautiful leather notebook I keep in my bedside table. Kenneth White, who is certainly one of the greatest thinkers of our time has created the revolutionary concept of ‘geopoetics’ and we’ll certainly come back to that later on Scotiana.
When you listen to Kenneth White, you can hardly guess he is Scottish. Indeed, he writes in English as well as in French. If he didn’t, anyway, it would be no problem for him since he has found the perfect translator in his life-companion and wife Marie-Claude! Born in Glasgow in 1936, Kenneth White has spent his childhood and adolescence at Fairlie, on the western coast of Scotland, in North Ayrshire, south of Largs, and these Scottish oceanic roots will influence him quite a lot in his future literary career. He is a great traveller, a great reader, and a passionate man in many fields. He has lived and worked in France for a long time now and he holds a chair in modern poetry in the University Paris-Sorbonne. Kenneth White presently lives in ‘La Maison des Marée’, ‘The House of Tides’, which is situated near Trebeurden, in French Brittany, at the lieudit ‘Le champ blanc’, the White Field ;-). It’s not easy to summarize Kenneth White’s life in a few phrases and we still don’t know very much about him but we like him very much and intend to study him more closely in a near future. Recently I fell upon a video of him. He was interviewed by Bernard Pivot, a very popular French literary TV journalist. As a fan of both men I was really delighted to listen to this unforgettable ‘duo’.
sur un chemin
Le voyager me semble un exercice profitable. L’âme y a une continuelle exercitation.
A tout prix et avec tous les airs, même dans les voyages métaphysiques.
Ce qui caractérise notre époque, c’est qu’elle est fadasse – fadasse comme la littérature.
Il nous faut pénétrer dans un nouveau monde, afin d’y connaître une liberté de mouvement, une fraîcheur.
William Carlos Williams
Moi je suis Peau-Rouge, ventre bleu, tête d’or…
Je pars, je fous le camp, je prends le maquis… le maquis de l’âme.
La vraie culture ne peut s’apprendre que dans l’espace…
Culture dans l’espace veut dire culture d’un esprit qui ne cesse pas de respirer et de se sentir vivre dans l’espace,
et qui appelle à lui les corps de l’espace comme les objets de sa pensée.
Il lui faut s’en aller toujours un peu plus loin,
c’est là son seul pays.
Ame bleue, obscur voyage.
Ce qui est étranger pérégrine en avant.
Mais il n’erre pas, dénué de toute destination, désemparé, de par le monde.
La quête de l’étranger marche à l’approche du site où il pourra trouver demeure.
La voie s’accomplit.
La neige tombe en mille flocons.
Plusieurs rouleaux de montagne bleue
viennent d’être peints.
But to cut a long story short, for I’ve not finished packing and I must hurry now, I will only say today that I’m bringing with me two exemplaries of La route bleue in the pocket edition ‘Le livre de poche’ and one of ‘The Blue Road’…
For the Great Work Field
The greatest characteristic of the present age is that it is stale – stale as literature.
To enter a new world, and have there freedom of movement and newness.
William Carlos Williams
Travelling, I consider as an extremely useful exercise. It sets the mind in movement.
Me, I’m a Redskin, with a blue belly and a head of gold. I’m lighting out, I’m heading for the hills – the hills of the soul.
All kinds of tunes, even on metaphysical trips.
Real culture can only be learned in space.
Space culture means the culture of a mind that breathes and has its being in space,
and that calls into itself all the bodies that move in space, making them the very objects of its thought.
Blue soul, dark road.
He’s always got to go a bit farther on; that’s his only home.
The stranger’s out on the road, ahead of everybody else.
He isn’t just wandering about, with nowhere to go.
All the time, he’s coming closer to the place he can call his own.
We’ve been out on the way.
Now the snow is falling, in a million flakes.
Several scrolls of blue mountain have just been painted.
I’m very happy to have found the pocket edition of the book for it will be easier to carry them in our backpacks. There are not easy to find. As for the English edition, Janice and I have found a rather cheap exemplary, which is becoming quite rare. These books will serve us as a basis for the writing of our travel posts and we hope we will be able to write them as regularly as usual.
As we’re going to visit the province of Québec in autumn, the ‘Belle Province’ which is well worth its nickname should not only be blue but multicoloured. We hope to be sharing with you beautiful images of ‘l’été des Indiens’ (Indian Summer) …
A très bientôt, on the blue road.
Ci-dessous, un petit bonus de lecture
For our German readers, here’s the German edition of The Blue Road
Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 2
Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 3
Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 4
Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 5
Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 6