Tracing the Lost Bodies: Testimony, Witnessing, and Trauma in Billydéki

  • Kamelia Talebian Sedehi Sapienza University of Rome


The last residential school in Canada, for Aboriginal students, was shut down in 1996; however, its percussions has affected not only the survivors but their next generations. By reading literary works, the audience can be informed of what happened in the past. The literary work merges narrativization and history to the extent that literature is involved in the action of creating a new form of narrative testimony to rethink historical incidents. History is transformed by bearing literary witness to residential schools in Canada. Sonia Perron's Billydéki (2019), not only bears literary witness to residential schools in Canada but also indicates the transformational relationship between narrative and history. In reading Billydéki, there is the possibility of finding out what residential schools have done to Aboriginal communities. Its language transmits eye witness's direct experience through the various characters at the moment of abuse and, therefore, historicize these incidents. The narrative does not tell, this is what happened, but it shows us through the eyes of various characters who were present at the moment of trauma; either being engaged in it or having onlooker stand. The aim of this paper is applying Judith Herman’s concept of trauma and Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub’s concept of testimony and witnessing to Sonia Perron's Billydéki, in order to shed light on the historical incidents that happened at residential schools and left unspoken for some time.