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Friday, January 21, 2005

MORE ON LOUIS RIEL

After posting the post below on Louis Riel, I read The False Traitor: Louis Riel in Canadian Culture by Albert Braz, a survey of works of literature dealing with Riel from Riel's own time to the present. (Unfortunately, Brown's work itself is only mentioned briefly in a footnote.) This gave me a better sense of what Brown's intent may have been in taking the approach he did. There have been quite a lot of works of literature dealing with Riel--nearly all, unsurprisingly, Canadian--most of which openly espouse a particular interpretation of Riel. Currently, according to Braz, the most popular view of Riel is as a Canadian national hero. In light of this background, by eschewing overt interpretation (though Brown engages in covert interpretation through what he chooses to emphasize and to ignore, as well as in the ways I talked about in my previous post), and by hewing much more closely to the historical record than most previous treatments of Riel, Brown is indeed making a statement about Riel for those who are familiar with the prevailing portrayals of Riel in Canadian culture (as I wasn't).

Braz claims that most of the literature dealing with Riel has minimized his Metis identity. If so, then in giving due weight to this identity Brown is also making a statement. Certainly it would be hard to construe the Riel portrayed by Brown as a Canadian national hero.

I still can't see Louis Riel as an artistic breakthrough, either for comics in general or for Brown in particular: what he does here doesn't seem that different from his adaptation of the Gospel of Mark, where he likewise eschewed interpretation, and stuck even more closely to his source material.

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