Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fortnightly Book, September 30

In the early nineteenth century, trouble was brewing in Quebec, as Francophones increasingly protested the Anglophone-heavy representation of the colonial government. The upper echelons were appointed by the Crown, but as there was no native nobility, the inevitable result was the capture of most of the government by wealthy trade-oligarchs. When a major economic downturn occurred in 1836, the underlying resentments against the colonial government began to heat up, and when a number of reform proposals were shot down, the leader of the reformers (known as Patriotes), Louis-Joseph Papineau, began organizing a paramilitary resistance. Revolution began in earnest in 1837. The Patriote militias were soon crushed by the British army, but the events would have a formative influence on the character of Quebec.

The next fortnightly book is Edward Baxter's 1982 translation of Jules Verne's Family Without a Name, Voyages Extraordinaires #33, published in 1889. A summary from the cover:

Even amongst his closest friends, only a few known that the man they call, simply, "Jean" is really the elusive and charismatic Jean-sans-nom, the Patriote leader with a price on his head. Only two people -- his mother and his brother -- know the terrible secret of his true identity and why it must go with him to the grave. And the woman he loves must never learn that the money he uses to buy weapons for the underground Patriote cells is bloodmoney.

As Baxter notes in the introduction, Verne never visited Canada except briefly on a visit to Niagara Falls, and everything in the work is based on impressions Verne got from reading books and the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. As a result, this is a work of historical fiction that is much more fiction than historical, with very little more drawn from the history than the historical frame and some of the geography (with which Verne also takes liberties). But Verne was very interested in independence movements, and especially in those movements that involved heroic self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds, and there is no question that La Guerre des patriotes had plenty of that.

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