Storied Streets: Montreal in the Literary Imagination

by Bryan Demchinsky and Elaine Kalman Naves, Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, 2000. [currently published by McClelland & Stewart]

It is the first image of Montreal, and like to many since, what is seen depends a great deal on who is looking.

Hochelaga materializes for one brief, glorious moment, then dissappears. This much seems certain: on October 2, 1535, Jacques Cartier, during his second voyage of exploration in the New World, landed on the shore of the island that today bears the city's name. A throng of native people greeted the French ecstatically:

"There came to meet us," Cartier writes, "more than a thousand persons, both men, woman and children, who gave us a good a welcome as ever father gave to his son, making great signs of joy; for the men danced in one ring, the women in another and the children also apart by themselves. After this they brough: us quantities of fish, and of their bread which is made of Indian corn, throwing so much of it into our long boats that it seemed to rain bread."

The morning after an evening of feasting and gift-giving, the natives escorted Cartier and his companiond to a nearby village:

"In the middle of these fields is situated and stands the village of Hochelaga, near and adjacent to a mountian, the slopes of which are fertile and cultivated, and from the top of which one can see for a long distnace. We named this mountain 'Mount Royal.'"

The name has stuck, as has the image of begnign first contact between the early inhabitants of the island and the explorers who preceeded the European...


Storied Streets: Montreal in the Literary Imagination by Bryan Demchinsky and Elaine Kalman Naves, Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, 2000. [currently published by McClelland & Stewart]  

“A great city is twice built: once of wood , brick, and stone and once as an act of the imagination. The imagined city is configured in words and pictures, and exists in a more enduring realm.  

Montreal belongs among the twice built cities. For all its latter-day troubles … it is a city bountifully, often brilliantly imagined. From the first description of the mountain at its centre, written before the city was conceived, to the most recent postmodern incarnation, Montreal continues to fascinate the beholder.”
– From the Introduction  

“In Storied Streets, authors Bryan Demchinsky and Elaine Kalman Naves—veteran Gazette arts journalists who have each written several previous books on the Montreal screen—place … present joie de vivre in vivid and compelling context…. This is the type of book I would have loved to have been introduced to in high school history class. …. This is a book of inroads, footpaths to the interior of identity. It’s as good an answer to the question, ‘Why did you move to Montreal?” as any I could give.”
– Elizabeth Johnston, Toronto Star, August 6, 2000   

“Whether it’s the effect of the water currents swirling around the island or its rich multicultural soil, Montreal, as Naves and Demchinsky’s book demonstrates, has always been something to write about…. Thanks to the complementary expertise Naves and Demchinsky brought to the project, Storied Streets zeroes in on how each writer they discuss transforms their own unique sense of place into literature…. In the end, it all meshes into a lavish atlas of Montreal’s literary geography.  

“Designed to fit a small coffee table, Storied Streets stands as an essential guide to all authors, from Abley to Weintraub, who have made their mark on Montreal….”
– Matt Radz, Montreal Gazette, May 14, 2000   

“Storied Streets gives a sense of ‘the imagined city’ as well as of the one made of souls, grass and concrete. It nobly digests 358 years of history, revealing a many-faceted community preserved on paper. By tapping the subjectivity of local writers, as well as of those who were drawn here, this book helps to illuminate the history of Montreal.”
– J.D. Gravenor, National Post, June 10, 2000  

“Demchinsky and Kalman Naves take us on tours of Westmount, Outremont, St-Henri, Point St. Charles, Plateau Mont Royal, Pointe-aux-Trembles—the whole of Montreal island past and present, seen through the eyes of an assembly of writers that is impressive … when grouped in one volume like this.
– Andrew Mullins, McGill News, Fall 2000   

“A deft combination of history, biography, and fiction that succeeds admirably in rendering a unique portrait of the city through the prose and poetry of its many writers…., a valuable and most welcome contribution to Canadian literature … in general and Montreal culture in particular.”
– Wayne Larsen, Westmount Examiner, May 18, 2000   

“A feast for the eye as well as the mind.”
– Canadian Jewish News, Dec 14, 2000

Jacques Cartier as represented

in a nineteenth-century drawing.

Did the explorer embellish the

account of his 1535 voyage?