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Marie-Claire Blais: Visions d’Anna (Anna’s World)

Though her Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel (A Season in the Life of Emmanuel) is generally considered her best work, I prefer this work. Like her other works it is not an easy work. It is all written in one paragraph with few sentence breaks and jumps around in time. While she has never been lacking in passion in this work she pulls out all the stops – the gender gap, the generation gap, racism, homophobia, the war on drugs – these and other issues are mercilessly attacked. She has no doubt who is to blame for what is wrong with today’s (i.e. early 1980s) youth. It is firstly parents in general and secondly men.

The Anna of the title is the daughter of Raymonde, a divorced woman who helps delinquent children. Anna’s father is a Californian, Peter, who fled the draft and has now remarried and has a child with his new wife. Anna’s best friend is Michelle, a delicate girl studying piano. Her mother is Guislaine, who is Raymonde’s best friend. Michelle also has an older sister, Liliane. Guislaine and her husband continually worry about Michelle and Liliane. Both do drugs and are involved in petty theft. For Blais, petty drug crimes are innocuous compared to the crimes of men – brutalizing women and using prostitutes, yet the men get away with it. For Guislaine and her husband, it is difficult to understand why this generation, which has been brought up with all it could want, is so alienated. The situation is similar with Anna and her parents, particularly Peter, who cannot understand this generation of drifters – the English word is used in the French text. He is continually urging Anna to get more discipline in her life, as though he is such a fine example.

Neither Anna or Michelle dislike their parents. Indeed, they seem generally attached to them. But they do feel alienated from them. Michelle is fragile and finds it difficult to cope and turns to drugs for solace. Anna, who also cannot stand the Canadian winters, heads off to the Caribbean where she meets other drifters – Tommy, who is black, had been adopted by white parents but had left them and is now with his girlfriend, Manon; Rita with her two young children, alone and drifting, and Philippe, much older with whom she has a brief fling. But whether in Canada or the Caribbean, the message from Blais is loud and clear. This generation is completely out of touch with its parents and the parents completely and utterly fail to understand their children.

Publishing history

First published 1982 by Stanké
First published in English 1985 by Lester & Open Dennys
Translated by Sheila Fischman