Saturday, March 04, 2006

Question for y'all...

What did Canadians call the Great Depression while the Great Depression was going on -- particularly in the early years? I ask because I went to see Michel Tremblay's Past Perfect, a play set in 1930, at Tarragon Theatre tonight and a character said, "We’re in the middle of the Depression, Bertine, people are dying of hunger left, right and centre, open your eyes."

This, of course, sounded absurd to my ears. A) 1930 was the beginning of the Depression, not the middle; and B) a character saying she's in the middle of "the" Depression is almost as anacronistic as a character saying he's fighting in the "First" World War.

Might someone in 1930 have said, "We're in the middle of a depression" however? I don't know... Historians? I know you're out there. (I'm interested in what people of all walks of life would have said, but the character here is poor and not terribly well educated, FYI.)

If it had happened once, I might have forgotten about it. But "the Depression" is referred to like this throughout the play and it was quite jarring each time. I thought perhaps this meant that I was watching a "memory play." (A play that is "remembered" by a particular character, usually many years after the events of the play took place -- think The Glass Menagerie.)

When I checked my French-language edition of Passé Antérieur once I got home, however, I found out that that this was actually a mistake made by Tremblay's usually on-the-ball translator Linda Gaboriau. Tremblay's original French reads, "On est en pleine crise, Bartine, le monde crèvent de faim autour de toé, ouvre-toé les yeux!"

I'd translate that as "We're in the middle of a crisis, people are dying of hunger etc...." Doesn't that make more sense?

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people knew they were in the Depression during the Depression... What do you think?

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