French Canadian, 1925–
First known as a poet with Le Combat contre Tristan (1951; The fight against Tristan), Pierre Trottier is a writer of memory, roots, erudition, and culture, no less than a man of professional travels and life in old foreign cities (Moscow, Jakarta, Paris, Lima). His poems from Russia are obsessed with exile, strangeness, origins, identity, and differentiation. Les Belles au bois dormant (1960; The beauties in the sleeping woods) are not fairytales but a gallery of women and men (widow, virgin, private soldier, rebel with or without a cause) of all conditions. Sainte-Mémoire (1972; Saint Memory) is a collection of returns and reconsiderations: to Oedipus, Don Quixote, Canadian winter, the concept of zero as scratch or as starting point. Time must not only be (re)collected, but corrected; his apparent simplicity, legibility, is a catch.
The 17 short essays of Mon Babel (1963; My Babel) deal with lost paradises and new horizons throughout Greek, French, and English classics. Trottier tries to translate, to adapt his Canadian or North American situation in space and time. He connects ideas as he opposes and links landscapes, seasons, ages, sexes. He contrasts cold, clear, sunny Canadian winters with wet, cloudy, dull European winters. He looks at the white plains with the eyes of a nonfigurative painter, Paul-Émile Borduas, chief of the Automatistes group and author of Refus global (1948; Global refusal), an influential manifesto against the Dark Ages (“la grande Noirceur”) of conservatism, clericalism, and academicism.
Un pays baroque (1979; A baroque country) is lively, tortuous, witty, and moving.
From the scholastic, self-styled “Status questionis” to an open conclusion called “Ephphata,” it contains 13 assorted essays, sketches, monologues, comedies, parodies, and morality plays, with a blithe mix of Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Amerindian titles, proverbs, and slogans. Canada is seen as a paradoxical country on account of its geophysics, geopolitics, history, and no-story; it is a railway, a seaway, a highway a mari usque ad mare (from sea to sea) along the border of the United States.
Trottier’s most recent collection of essays, Ma dame à la licorne (1988; My lady of the unicorn), is his most autobiographical, full of dreams, readings, and encounters.
“Nostalgia taught me curiosity,” he says. This book is a celebration of woman as mother of life, myth, language, and art. Before being born in (and from) a country, every man comes from (and in) a woman.
Trottier’s wor(l)d trip is a love trip among Latin and Russian etymologies, encompassing Jivago, Malenkov, Molotov, but most of all doucha (soul) and doukh (spirit). Trottier’s essays are also, often, pieces of poetry in prose.
Born 21 March 1925 in Montreal. Studied at the Jesuit Collèges de Sainte-Marie and Jean-de-Brébeuf, B.A., 1942; Law School of the University of Montreal, law degree, 1945. Secretary to the Chamber of Commerce, Montreal; joined the Department of External Affairs, Ottawa, 1949: diplomatic posts in Moscow, 1951–54 and 1970–73, Jakarta, 1956–57, London, 1954–61, and Paris, 1964–68. Married Barbara Theis, 1952:
two daughters and one son. Associated with the Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Ambassador to Peru, 1973–76; diplomatic adviser to the Governor-General of Canada, 1976–79; Ambassador to UNESCO, 1969– 84. Awards: David Prize, 1963; Society of Men of Letters Prize, for poetry, 1964.
Member, Royal Society of Canada, 1978.
Essays and Related Prose
Mon Babel, 1963
Un pays baroque, 1979
Ma dame à la licorne, 1988
Other writings: many collections of poems, collected in SainteMemoire (1972) and En vallees closes: Poèmes 1951–1986 (1989).
Hamel, Réginald, John Hare, and Paul Wyczynski, Dictionnaire des auteurs de langue française en Amérique du Nord, Montreal: Fides, 1989:1308–09
Archambault, Gilles, “Mow Babel, de Pierre Trottier,” in Livres et auteurs canadiens 1963, Montreal: Jurmonville, 1964: 87–89
Dorais, Fernand, “Mon Babel, essai de Pierre Trottier,” in Dictionnaire des ceuvres littéraires du Québec, vol. 4, edited by Maurice Lemire, Montreal: Fides, 1984:584–85
Grandpré, Pierre de, “Mon Babel, de Pierre Trottier,” in his Dix Ans de vie littéraire au Canada français, Montreal: Beauchemin, 1966:234–41
Marcotte, Gilles, “Diplomate, essayiste et poete: Pierre Trottier…” Québec (October 1964):92–95
Morency, Jean, “Un pays baroque, essai de Pierre Trottier,” in Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec, vol. 6, edited by Maurice Lemire, Montreal: Fides, 1994: 864– 65
Pavelich, Joan, Pierre Trottier, poète et essayiste (M.A. dissertation),, Montreal: University of Montreal, 1979
Vachon, Georges-André, “Pour une morale du risque,” Québec (October 1964):126–17
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