Rue St-Dominique, Montreal

In Dangling Man, Saul Bellow’s narrator writes in his journal, recalling a childhood in Montreal. The description is so potent that I had an immediate urge to make a virtual visit.

I have never found another street that resembled St. Dominique. It was in a slum between a market and a hospital. I was generally intensely preoccupied with what went on in it and watched from the stairs and the windows. Little since then has worked upon me with such a force as, say, the sight of a driver trying to raise his fallen horse, of a funeral passing through the snow, or of a cripple who taunted his brother. And the pungency and staleness of its stores and cellars, the dogs, the boys, the French and immigrant women, the beggars with sores and deformities whose like I was not to meet again until I was old enough to read of Villon’s Paris, they very breezes in the narrow course of that street, have remained so clear to me that I sometimes think it is the only place where I was ever allowed to encounter reality.

Antlerheads, rue St. Dominique
[First image source]

3 thoughts on “Rue St-Dominique, Montreal

  1. >I once lived about three blocks away from here. That first photo really takes me back.Semi-random recommendation, but if you're at all interested in this area of Montreal (not that you've been there!), I was a great fan of Michel Tremblay's La grosse femme d'à côté est enceinte, the first book in his seven-volume series about the Plateau Mont-Royal (I haven't made it any further). Wonderful look at Quebecois life circa WWI. If you read French it's worth making the effort in the original as there is some amazing (though difficult) dialect.


  2. >nicole – That's quite a coincidence; does Bellow's description ring any bells? I gather the area has been gentrified since his narrator's description.Michel Tremblay has written some interesting books, hasn't he? I hadn't heard of him before but I am intrigued by his memoirs.I'd love to visit Montreal. I do have a nagging nightmare about the city. There was a sadistic and violent bully at school, who is now a leading surgeon in the city. I've always half-joked that it is bound to be the city in which I fall ill, so have avoided it to date.


  3. >It rings a bell more for what I know to be the history of the area than for my own memories—not too many horses around anymore, after all. Somewhat cleaned up since then but at the same time largely the same feel (St. Dominique is definitely the worst street in the area, still.)And yes, I would say gentrification is still in progress but certainly underway. I guess I lived there about 5-6 years ago now (right there; I leave semi-near earlier as well) and there was a mix of students, Quebecois, and other fairly working-class ethnic groups, especially Portuguese. Where the houses are rentals most of them are pretty run down ("lots of character") but the ones that are kept up are beautiful.Your nightmare is hilarious but I would say that, bully or no, Montreal is not the best place to get sick. Unless you are a big fan of hospital waiting rooms!


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