Posted at 10.13.2018
"Volkswagen Blues", published in 1984, is a road novel compiled by French-Canadian author Jacques Poulin. Through the novel, we follow the protagonist, a writer under the pen-name Jacques Waterman, in his seek out his estranged brother Theo. Near the start of his journey, Jacques accumulates a hitchhiker called Pitsemine, who is a Metis woman who is nicknamed "La Grande Sauterelle", and her pet cat Chop Suey. Following this, the couple attempt the journey from Gaspe to SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, travelling through many of the large North American towns such as Toronto and Chicago, in order to find Theo. As the storyline unfolds, it is clear that the book is far more than solely a story about finding Jacques' sibling, it is clear that it contains many metaphorical features which give the audience much information about the human relationships between the White Francophone and the indigenous populace of THE UNITED STATES. Furthermore, Poulin gives us an information on the exploration of the continent by the Europeans and the indigenous people's attitudes towards them.
In order to analyse the novel as an exploration of the rapport between Francophones and indigenous AMERICANS, we must stick it in its historical context so we can verify the attitudes of the two populations during this period. The previous a decade before the book was shared were an important time in the try to establish a peaceful relationship between the differing populations in Quebec. In 1976, the politics get together "Parti Quebecois" came up to force in Quebec under the management of Rene Levesque. This signalled purpose from the populace of Quebec for a referendum on nationwide sovereignty, which was granted in 1980 when a public vote had taken place to decide the continuing future of Quebec. However, the results was a beat for those encouraging national sovereignty as they only received 40% of the vote, although this still demonstrated there was a large divide in opinion amongst the people of Quebec. Additionally, in 1982, 2 yrs before the posting of the novel, tensions between the individual populations increased further when Quebec refused to ratify the terms of Canada's new constitution. This historical information says us that the metaphorical issues of integration and multiculturalism were at the forefront of the political agenda through the period which the book was written and publicized. Therefore it seems reasonable to take these politics features as the main theme of the novel and in the end this is the reason why Poulin wrote the story.
Furthermore, the main characters of the story together, without even considering the occurrences that unfold, tell us much about the political motives of the publication. For example, the key protagonist Jacques Waterman is a middle income writer who has no clear qualifications and seemingly no true foundations in Quebec. Pitsemine is Metis who appears quite independent with many competences, for example she actually is a mechanic who has driven lorrys. Immediately we can take notice of the diversity within the Quebec region, and perhaps Pitsemine's skilfulness instead of Waterman's passivity is a message conveyed by the author in order to emphasise that any racism in Quebec towards native society is unfounded.
Moreover, this few come together from both separate groups in order to go on a searching quest, it is clear that Poulin expected this search as a metaphor for the politics and ethnic situation in Quebec. The two protagonists aren't solely searching for Theo, but many different elements which Quebec as a whole is also looking for in the period where the book is written. They follow in the footsteps of the first European discoverers of THE UNITED STATES searching for wealth and prosperity, the narrator mentions the mythical, golden city of Eldorado to be able to reinforce this. Furthermore, the protagonists are also venturing through THE UNITED STATES to be able to clarify their identities, they can be on the search to determine who they truly are. This element is also relevant for Quebec in this time as it was beginning to question its personal information and place in America consequently of the top diversity that is present. Moreover, the main purpose of the quest is to find Theo who it appears is symbolic in the same aspects as the United States in the components of flexibility and liberty, he has kept Quebec and it is therefore regarded as free and doing as he pleases, again this is a metaphor for something that Quebec wants.
Nevertheless, there are many other aspects which support the view that the novel can be an exploration of the connections of different populations in Quebec. For example, Poulin employs both English and French to be able to bolster the multiple ethnicities of the spot. This underlines to the audience that in many ways the two dialects run side by side peacefully, however addititionally there is an actual impression of self-reliance of cultures and dialect which will often cause division. Maybe it's said that Poulin is trying to mention the subject matter that if both dialects can go collectively in the book then there is no reason as to the reasons they can not co-exist in reality. Furthermore, throughout their voyage, Jacques and Pitsemine meet many monolingual Americans, for example the bull rider's wife, and Jacques battles to communicate effectively in English. This could be deduced as an allusion to the domination of British in modern THE UNITED STATES and may perhaps hint to Quebec that they must try to maintain the Francophone tradition there. In addition, despite Jacques' incredibly competent capability in his local language, French, the audience is advised of his struggle with English, we know that he's an intelligent man as he has already established many books publicized. It could be said that this is a metaphor for the department that is out there between Francophones and Anglophones in Quebec and exactly how difficult maybe it's to integrate the two organizations into eachother.
Nonetheless, during the quest we can discover that Jacques and Pitsemine aren't always sure that they are going in the right path and often get lost. Furthermore, they aren't totally sure of the purpose of the journey which is a lot the same of the journey of Quebec and the populace who live in it. This doubt is mirrored in Jacques as he will not necessarily understand the primary reason as to why he is looking for Theo, who he hasn't spoken with for quite some time and is only a storage area inside his mind. It is possible that the writer is trying to convey the subject matter that Quebec is also uncertain of how it wants its journey to complete. Much of the populace of the spot at that time were calling for freedom from Canada, however many people were also opposed to this, also a large number of folks were getting in touch with for better integration of the ethnic sets of Quebec, again many people were from this as they wished to protect the initial cultures.
At the finish of the quest, the couple find Theo and to their surprise he is suffering from amnesia and paralysis, he is unable to keep in mind his brother. However, because of this of the, Jacques detects the inspiration to create a new booklet and he seemingly has a fresher outlook on life, as though he is finally affirmed as to his true identity. Furthermore, the couple conclude having a fairly sceptical view of the ideological American wish, perhaps because they have got travelled such a long way through the vast land of North America only to find Theo terminally sick rather than the wealth and prosperity that that they had wished for.
Therefore, to conclude, it is visible that "Volkswagen Blues" has far more depth than just being a report in regards to a man and his good friend voyaging around THE UNITED STATES looking for his prodigal brother, but a sophisticated, politically and culturally metaphorical book about the interactions amongst the ethnically diverse populations of THE UNITED STATES and the continuing future of the first environment of the novel, Quebec. We can deduce from the many aspects of the storyplot, such as words and people, that like much Quebecois books of this period, there are prominent politics features and emails throughout the complete novel.
Postcolonialism in THE UNITED STATES: Imaginative Colonization in Henry David Thoreau's "A Yankee in Canada" and Jacques Poulin's "Volkswagen Blues"
Adam Paul Weisman, The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Fall, 1995), pp. 477-500.
The Quebec Book Today: Multiple Perspectives, Mary Jean Green, The France Review, Vol. 67, No. 6, Special Concern on Quebec (May, 1994), pp. 922-92.
Volkswagen Blues: Rebirth through communication, Andrea Portt, Guelph, Vol 2, No 2 (2009).
Writing against knowing, writing against certainty; or what's really under the veranda in Jacques Poulin's Volkswagen Blues, Roger Hyman, Journal of Canadian Studies (1999)