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Reviews: Louky Bersianik

Content moved to FSFwiki: * Louky Bersianik Picnic on the Acropolis (1979).
Maternative (1980).

A film about Louky Bersianik: "Les terribles vivantes / Firewords" was made by the National Film Office of Canada (1986); 16 mm (84 min), featuring Louky Bersianik, Jovette Marchessault, and Nicole Brossard; in French and English.

The Euguelionne is science fiction satire along the lines of Gulliver's Travels, or perhaps Kurt Vonnegut. In this case, the traveller is the Euguelionne, who arrives on Earth from another planet, seeking "the male of her species." On her planet the two sexes, which do reproduce, are actually separate species, and sexism is total there. The Euguelionne befriends some Earth women and makes many observations about sexism in Earth society.

The novel is described as "a triptych novel" by the author, and it is in three parts: "First Panel: No Woman is a Prophet On Her Own Planet," which consists of several fables, and information about the planet of the Euguelionne. "Second Panel: The Massacred Paramecia" focuses more on stories of the life of the Canadians whom the Euguelionne encounters, men and women, husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and lovers. "Third Panel: Transgression is Progression" is dedicated largely to the Euguelionne's commentary on human society (particularly French and Quebecoise), which she finds very sexist and sadly wanting in justice.

Bersianik devotes much time to attacking human philosophers and scientists and pseudo-scientists, such as Sartre, Nietsche, and Freud. The novel is also very focussed on the sexism inherent in the French language, and Bersianik makes many word plays, such as "mi-graine" (graine=penis or seed; mi-graine=half-seed; migraine is a headache) that do not have the force in English that they do in French. Although the translators have attempted to footnote in some cases to make up the deficiencies inherent in a translation, I would definitely recommend reading L'Euguelionne in the French original if you can, and the greater the fluency in current French, the better.

Bersianik particularly attacks the law and government for deeply ingrained sexism: I definitely noticed creeping anarchism in the Third Panel (hey, I think that's a good thing!). Overall, a very interesting book -- but not exactly a plot-driven novel. Read it when you're in the mood for something abstract, metaphorical, and philosophical. -- lq 3/4/95; revised 3/24/96; rev. 6/4/96 (Other quotes from the work are available at http://www.feministsf.org/femsf/quotes/.)

Picnic on the Acropolis< originally Le pique-nique sur l'Acropole, supposedly is about female genital mutilation; may or may not have been translated into English.


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