“Monumental, illuminated”: Dreaming of the territory

Living in the territory is a way of dreaming of it and making it our own. But how can we build the country without first having grasped its contours, its inhabitants, but, above all, without first having a vision of its future? In a second novel, Laurent Lussier recounts with humor, intelligence and singularity the evolution of French Canada at the end of the 19th century.e century to the first quarter of the 21ste from the perspective of five fiery architects.

Monumental, illuminated — just published in La Mèche — it is the story of five destinies which intersect through the ages in aims that are as utopian as they are necessary, a way of conceiving the future of French Canada through its architecture.

First there is Joseph Houle, known as Gérin-Lajoie, who developed the abatis school, a logging camp where he advocated the poetic exploitation of the forest, where he saw the people not as “an army of machine men, but [comme] a race of aesthetes and thinkers, like the Athenians of old. Athenian lumberjacks, ready to invent a philosophy of sawing! “. Unlike him, Lucien Godin, a Trappist brother, conceived the future of the country in an architecture which encouraged and advocated solitary life, finding a way to exploit the riches which left time for meditation. Hélène Cinq-Mars, in reaction to the Duplessist regime, for her part envisages an “architecture of equality”, intended for the people and designed behind the doors padlocked by the law on censorship. Rose Bibeau-Godin, wife of the Trappist, who was moved by the Beauharnois power station, opposed the corseted architecture, “which kept the people of this province inside – walls, roofs, locked doors, and even this portable architecture which encloses the body, the clothes”. And, finally, there is Gérard Crête, who, through an ephemeral vision of the first art, indifferent to the territory, wants to put an end to the folkloric vision of the country, “to detract the sick minds which work in the opposite direction, seeking to multiply the ties that connected them to the country.”

History lesson

So many opposing visions presented in a rich language, with elegant turns of phrase, in a tone that we feel is both sensitive and mocking, all carried by immense, rebellious and free characters. Monumental, illuminated presents itself as a real literary bibitte which radiates, through its presence, its complexity and its audacity, the current romantic landscape.

In this fresco of more than 400 pages, in-depth and casual, Laurent Lussier recounts in five acts the transformation of the country since these visionaries of the landscape. Having fun skillfully weaving reality and fiction, the author ofA terrible evil is brewing lays here and there the milestones of this crossing as crazy as its builders.

Thus, through architecture, the entire history of French-Canadian culture is highlighted. From the tales proudly kept in the lumberjacks’ house to this ambition to put an end to the construction of monuments so that “everywhere the territory remains demolishable”, Laurent Lussier allows an open reading, loaded with meaning and nonsense, a a work like few others do and in which the ambitions of these illuminated characters allow us to grasp the contours of what we have become.

Monumental, illuminated


Laurent Lussier, La Mèche, Montreal, 2023, 444 pages

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