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Poulin, Jacques.

Translated by Sheila Fischman, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1988. 213pp, cloth. $22.95. ISBN 0-7710-7158-2. CIP

Reviewed by Louis Maingon

Volume 16 Number 6
1988 November

Volkswagen Blues is Sheila Fischman's translation of Jacques Poulin's 1984 novel of the same title. Jacques Poulin is sometimes considered one of Quebec's best novelists of the 1980’s. Volkswagen Blues, written in the vein of the American Renaissance travel novel of Kerouac and Pirsig, falls miserably because it becomes a poor parody of the transcendentalism it attempts to criticize.

Jack Waterman, the protagonist, begins his search for his long-lost enigmatic brother Theo in a provincial park somewhere in the Gaspesie. It is there that a nubile long-legged mechanic named La Grande Sauterelle, dressed only in her white nightgown and followed, like a good witch, by her black cat, drifts across his green path. La Grande Sauterelle is never fully rounded out as a character. She is useful only as another alienated figure in search of her Self.

Given the predominant role played by the anima figure, the narrator's puerile attitude leads to other aspects of male infantilism. This is an adult book only by virtue of La Grande Sauterelle's inordinate—and typically trite—desire to commemorate her passage of the Great Divide by having sex at the celebrated spot. Particularly in this instance and generally throughout the novel, desire is frustrated by the author-narrator-protagonist's over-hasty ejaculations of both sperm and word. His sex and writing are simply too self-complacent to be either interesting or convincing.

Louis Maingon, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
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