"Je me souviens"

Does "Je me souviens" (I remember) mean something for you? If you ask the question to a Nana fan and to a Quebecer, each one will give you a different answer. Here’s the point of vue from a quebecer fan.


It’s the first of the 13 songs forming the French album released in 1968. On the cover, there’s a photo of Nana in a medallion. In Canada, her whole name appears. While in Europe, only her first name is indicated. On the back cover of the CD, the song is identified as the album title. This supports the introduction text in which her producer André Chapelle mentions that the song gives a nostalgic touch to the album.

"Je me souviens" is the French version of "Girls with summer dresses" that Harry Belafonte recorded a couple of years before. It’s not the kind of commercial hit released on singles or included in compilations of successes. Moreover, the chosen musical accompaniment is plain: light percussion, guitars in tandem and intensifying violins. But what a pleasure to hear Nana telling us that as a young girl she proudly wore her white dress!

Je me souviens

Je me souviens des dimanches (I remember the Sundays)
Au temps des tendres années
(During my tender years)
J'étais belle dans ma robe blanche
(I was pretty in my white dress)
Tous les garçons le disaient
(All the boys told it)

Je me souviens quand on sortait (I remember when we went out)
De l'église avec papa
(From the church with dad)
J'étais fière dans ma robe blanche
(I was proud with my white dress)
De me montrer à son bras
(Holding to his arm)
Il m'achetait des amandes
(He bought me almonds)
Et un peu de cidre doux
(And some sweet cider)
En ce temps j'étais gourmande
(During those years I was greedy)
Ça lui coutait quelques sous
(It costed him some cents)

Je me souviens l'après-midi (I remember during the afternoons)
J'allais jouer avec mes amies
(I went to play with my friends)
Et tant pis si ma robe blanche
(And too bad if my white dress)
Était un peu trop jolie
(Was a bit too pretty)

Je me souviens du temps lointain (I remember the far away time)
De nos naïves chansons
(Our innoncent songs)
Et puis, et puis, je revois les yeux
(And then, and then, I still see)
Amoureux d'un garçon
(The loving eyes of a boy)
La la la da la...

(Jim Friedman / Pierre Delanoë)


In Quebec, "Je me souviens" became a famous sentence thanks to the architect Eugène-Étienne Taché (1836-1912). He designed the frontage of the Parliament Building while adding to it bronze statues representing the Amerindians, the explorers, the missionaries, the soldiers and the public administrators of the French regime, as well as figures of the English regime. In 1883, he carved in stone, above the main door, these three words which became, in 1939, our motto.

Through the years, a lot of interpretations have been attributed to this sentence because the author didn’t offer any explanation. As the text introduces at the Parliament’s entrance, the most plausible is that it is a place of memory intended to illustrate Quebec identity. In 1978, the motto is inscribed on the registration car plates to replace the tourism slogan "La Belle Province" (The Beautiful Province).


Memory represents real life, knowledge with which we build the present and the future. The memories, more emotive, come back to us at times and influence our moods. Some can act like a balm with the sufferings of the present moment. Others we would prefer to forget undoubtedly contribute to make us grow up. Nana often sang that theme. In her French Repertory, let’s think about "Les bons souvenirs" (The good memories) or "Les mauvais souvenirs" (The bad memories). More recently, with "Où es-tu passé?" (Where are you gone?), written by her big friend Jean-Claude Brialy, she tells that we must never forget where we come from.


Nana has recorded, unknowingly, a song of which the title reminds Quebecers' motto. A song to listen again and certainly a symbolic expression to rediscover.

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