Here I Sit

Here I Sit by Rene Fumoleau. Ottawa: Novalis, 1996. ISBN 2¬9088--814-2 (pb) 192 pp. $18.95

I heard Rene Fumoleau on CBC before I received his book, and heard in his calm, gentle voice, the bemused half-smile which I hear in his poems and stories. I am almost at a loss to know how to describe Here I Sit. It is poetry. It is parable. It is satire without meanness. It is full of wit and often iconic humour. It shows us the life of the Dene people in juxtaposition to our own. It shows us ourselves. In the introduction, editor Colin O'Connell says "Fumoleau's poetry and stories don't add up to a neat little whole, a manageable bundle of worldly wisdom, but call us into an unpredictable world where the spirit blows, where and when it wills... We are invited on a Vision Quest."

In this unpredictable world, the reader meets street people, politicians, mice, mothers, people who question, who accept, and who love. In simple words and understated descriptions, we are shown not only the Dene culture, but the way things look from where Fumoleau sits at this time in his life. He looks at his church, at his own life, at the government officials and other outsiders who come to the North to "help" the people, and he writes what he sees. His insights are presented with clarity and honesty, with humour and irony.

Rene Fumoleau is an Oblate priest who came to the Northwest territories from France in 1953. Since then he has lived among the Dene as a priest, writer, photographer, and filmmaker. He achieved wide recognition in 1975 for As Long As This Land Lasts, a study of native treaties in Canada. Where does Here I Sit fit as a storytelling resource? Preachers, ministers, priests, tellers who do motivational talks, those in the helping professions, and individuals looking for stories that lead to reflection and personal growth all will find thought provoking and entertaining material in it. If I had any complaint about the book, it would be that the stunning photographs are not big enough.

Available for order on-line

[Rene Fumoleau is one of the voices preserved by Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada’s Storysave Project.]

The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 4, December 1996
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