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Volume 02, Number 2 (1977)

Une Saison dans la Vie d'Emmanuel: A Season in Hell

  • J. M. Kertzer
May 22, 2008


The two landscapes of Marie Claire Blais's Une Saison dans la Vie d'Emmanuel, the outer landscape of the Quebec winter, and the inner, imaginative one shared by her characters, interact and combine in a diabolical vision of human existence that recalls the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. Through the use of a fragmentary style of narration with its shifting points of view, through grotesque characterization, and above all, through the confusion of time and space, the characters' lives are isolated and distorted even as they express the human condition. Rimbaud's "Une Saison en Enfer," with its descent into hell and corresponding glimpses of heaven, elucidates this novel's demonstration of the interdependence of life and death, pleasure and pain, and the corresponding cycle of unfulfilled renewal.