Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Stendahl on Vancouver

Jan 19, 2022

I've been reading Stendahl to start the new year, Scarlet and Black. No particular reason. I've always wanted to and suddenly the opportunity presented itself.

My local coffee shop (Brazza on Lonsdale Ave. in North Vancouver) added a "lending library" during a recent renovation. Take one, leave one. I was browsing through the books on offer and there was Stendahl. So I took.

Early on in the novel I encountered this description of the provincial town in France where much of the action takes place: "Bringing in money - that is the magic phrase determining everything in Verrières; by itself alone it represents the usual subject for thought of more than three-quarters of its population. Bringing in money is the decisive reason for everything in this little town you thought so pretty. A stranger to it, on his first arrival there, enchanted by the cool, deep valleys that surround it, imagines its inhabitants are sensitive to beauty. They speak all too frequently of the beauty of the town and its environment; nobody can deny that they set a high value on it; but that is only because this beauty attracts visitors, whose money makes the innkeepers rich, while they, in their turn, by paying tax on commodities from outside, increase the revenue of the town."

What a perfect description of Vancouver, I thought, which from its earliest days has been trying to leverage its idyllic location to "bring in money."