Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

May 2001


Published in Québec Studies, 31 (Spring/Summer 2001), pp. 97-112. Copyright © 2001 the American Council for Québec Studies. Used by permission.


In discussing Bonheur d'occasion Patrick Coleman has identified Gabrielle Roy's difficulty finding a vehicle to convey convincingly her insight that "an awareness of separation is a necessary condition of any moment of real connection" as one of her chief esthetic problems (77). Her successful negotiation of this tension in La Route d'Altamont owes much to presenting consolation as an antidote to separation. First, rather than deny the reality of separation, consolation mediates between it and union by allowing Roy to portray separation coexisting with communion; even the most stable consolations must be constantly renewed since consolation is more a process than a permanent state achieved once and for all. Consolation is adjusting to loss, not restoration of the lost object. It lessens the pain of separation, but does not heal the wound of absence completely. Second, the dialectic of absence and presence in consolation is enhanced by the retrospective first-person narrative form Roy uses particularly effectively in this novel. While retelling moments of shared joy, the older narrator can signal their transience, and likewise episodes of loss and dejection are retold in a way that reminds readers of the possibility of consolation. Furthermore the fact that the reader gradually realizes that older narrator Christine has become a writer makes the reflective nature of Roy's version of consolation more plausible. The mature writer-narrator intervenes frequently to interpret the experience of her younger self who was only just becoming aware of the sacrifices her emerging vocation would demand.