Sunday, July 1, 2012

Nancy Huston's Infrared, Bilingualism Quotation

Photos taken in Belleville, 2011 -- posted about here and here and here

I'm reading Nancy Huston's Infrared, following its rather densely interior narrative (I'll contradict myself, I suppose, in mentioning its descriptions of Florence, of Italian art, as she travels through that city with her father and his wife). Having been fortunate enough to hear her speak a few years ago (albeit in French so that I probably missed some of her intent/import), I was primed for passages such as this one. The protagonist, Rena, a Canadian ex-pat living in Paris (so resembling Huston superficially), is speaking to her alter-ego, Subra, offering an assessment of an acupuncturist she visited, who guessed at Rena's nationality, presumably based on her accent:

"I deduced that she wasn't a native French speaker herself, which endeared her to me even more. I have a marked preference for people who are split--bi's and ambi's of all sorts. That's why I live in the neighbourhood of Belleville, where bilingualism is the rule and not the exception, where you know that behind every face in the street is a brain teeming with sentences, quotes, expressions, songs and proverbs in French and another language, whether Chinese or Arabic, Turkish or Kurdish, German, English or Cambodian. I have no patience for people who think they know who they are just because they were born somewhere" (100).

Huston, Nancy. Infrared. Toronto: McArthur, 2011. First published in French as Infrarouge, 2010.

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