Notes on the Trilogy by Jennifer Tremblay

First, there was The List.

For some years I have lived in the country, an industrial landscape of cornfields, and I hated it.

I made one friend in this place, Caroline. Caroline was overwhelmed by her daily tasks. Me too. Our kids sometimes got us down. We talked, and laughed. Her house was indescribably messy. But mine was different. Because of my upbringing, and also because my husband could not bear mess and was constantly tidying up. When Caroline came to my home, she always said that my house was more peaceful than hers.

When she died, three weeks after the birth of her fifth child, all those who knew her were obviously overcome by grief and outraged by the harshness of life.

We all felt guilty. Who were ‘we all’? Who was the most to blame? Today I think that we talk of “responsibility” (rather than guilt) and ask the question: “To what extent are we responsible for each other? ”

I think we also need to bear in mind that the Quebec health system itself is very sick. It’s responsible for all sorts of complications and unnecessary death among patients, but this is a taboo subject because we like to protect our doctors.

I’ve written and rewritten the story of the death of Caroline many times. I wanted to find out how to evoke in the viewer (or reader) the unbearable emotions that are generated by a pointless death. And then one day, reading Le Grand Cahier by Agato Kristof, I realised how I could tell this story. I realised that a rather cold detached and factual style was probably the best way of evoking an emotional reaction. I also returned to something I had read in the past, which brought back the literature of my youth to me, L’Etranger (The Stranger), by Albert Camus. The first sentence of the novel: “Today Mom died.” Well, well, well…

Le Carrousel (2011) and La Délivrance (2013) “emerged” and the three texts now form the trilogy that I entitled Mothers. I say they “emerged” because sometimes things just happen like that.

This unnamed woman who tells the story of the death of her neighbour, seems to me terribly rational and cold. Inevitably, making her tell the story in this way, I had brought out her soul … But I wanted to give her other dimensions, from what was in her head, to her heart (The Carousel) and stomach (The Deliverance).

The Carousel made life difficult for me. For the first time in my life, I knew what title and what form to give the text (circular movement, vertical movement, obsessive repetition) but what I didn’t know was what to say!! Horses came into my mind, and the landscape of the region where I was born, and the faces of people from my childhood, with their great strength and great faults. These people are shaped by the landscape they have conquered with their own hands. They are fabulous characters.

I had her heart. I had her childhood. What was missing was her adolescence. What could I do to link motherhood and adolescence? The signs, of course, that mark the end of childhood and confirm that motherhood will one day be possible. In French, “delivrance” is the term that is used to release the placenta during childbirth. (It’s also the word we use when we talk about the forgiveness of sins, release from captivity, or a submission, or for our journey from ignorance to knowledge.)

In The Carousel, Florence, mother of the narrator, is very ill. The narrator goes to her bedside. The play tells of her mental journey as she passes through the landscape of the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, returning to the country of her childhood. It calls on the soul of Marie, her dead Grandmother, asking the question that obsesses her: “Why is the gate that shut behind my mother shutting on me again? ”

The Deliverance is the story of what happens when the narrator (the woman) arrives at the Florence’s bedside. The urgency of her weighty mission to convince her half-brother to come to the bedside of their ailing mother. Florence has not seen her son in years. She cannot imagine dying without seeing her beloved son one last time. The narrator takes refuge in a church to find the courage to mend the broken bridges.

Granddaughter of Marie, daughter of Florence, this woman is going to reveal to you, piece by piece, what is not imaginary, and what is not real either. She is, quite simply, formed by the poetry she has found on her journey: mountains, rocks, river, sun, night, wind, rain, days, snow, cold, carousel, horses, music, chocolate, heaven, trees.

Jennifer Tremblay

(translated by Stellar Quines)