Gabrielle Roy

“The house where Jean had found his little furnished room was just in front of the swing-bridge of St. Augustin street. It could watch the passage of flatboats, tankers that stank of oil or gasoline, wood barges, colliers, all of them giving a triple blast with their foghorns just before its door: their demand to be let out from the narrows of the towns into the wide, rough waters of the Great Lakes.
But the house was not only on the path of the frieghters. It was also near the railway, at the crossroads of the eastern and western lines and the maritime routes of the great city. It was on the pathways of the oceans, the Great Lakes, and the prairies.
To its left were shing rails. Directly in front of it shone red and green signals. In the night, coal and dust and soot flew around it, amid a cavalcade of wheels, the frenzied gallop of puffing steam, the long wailing of whistles, the short, chopped blast from the chimneys of the flatboats; among these sounds tripped the shrill, broken ringing of the alarm and, prolonged beyond this clamour, the slow purring of a ship’s screw. Often, when he awoke at night with all these sounds about him, Jean imagined he was on a voyage, sometimes on a freighter, sometimes on a Pullman car. He would close his eyes and go to sleep with the agreeable impression that he was escaping, constantly escaping.”

These word are from The Tin Flute, a translation of Bonheur d’occasion, the famous novel by Gabrielle Roy set in Saint Henri
during the end of the depression and the start of World War Two.
The story compassionately follows one impoverished family and their realities and hopes and dreams.
Here is a picture of her at Saint Henri Station (north view).

One of the more subtle subway art pieces you will ever see is the words Bonheur d’occasion embedded in the brick at Place Saint Henri Station.

and here is the south view of the Metro Station today.


Gabrielle Roy

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