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14th Annual Comparative Literature Symposium


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Title: 14th Annual Comparative Literature Symposium

  • Bienvenue!
  • 14th Annual Comparative Literature Symposium
  • Crossing Borders 21st Century Writers in the
  • Who is Roland Michel Tremblay?
  • French-Canadian born in 1972 in Québec city now
    living in London UK since 1995
  • In the past few years I have been leading two
    professional lives in parallel. The first one is
    in the world of Conferences in Telecoms and IT
    where I have been writing and managing major
    European events. My second life has been and
    still is the one of an author and technical
    adviser writing novels, essays, poetry,
    television scripts and now big American films.
  • Masters Degree in French Literature from the
    University of London (Birkbeck College)
  • I have also studied for one year at la Sorbonne
    in Paris and I have finished a BA Language and
    Philosophy at the University of Ottawa in Canada.
    I also have a college diploma in Sciences from
    the College of Jonquière in Québec.
  • Author of many books, 4 are published in French
    in Paris by iDLivre publisher
  • The books are Eclecticism (Philosophical Essay),
    Waiting for Paris (Novel), Denfert-Rochereau
    (Novel) and The Anarchist (Poetry). They are
    distributed in France, apparently they are the
    most popular of the publishing company and are
    also distributed in Belgium, Switzerland, Canada,
    Africa and Middle-East.
  • Science Consultant/Technical Adviser/Writer for
    films and TV
  • The television series Black Hole High that I
    worked on is now being broadcast on the NBC
    network all over America and on ITV all over the
    United Kingdom.
  • What will this presentation cover?
  • History of French-Canadian Literature
  • Québecs main authors
  • Roland Michel Tremblays books

In 1750 La Nouvelle-France (New France) was huge,
it went down to New Orleans in the South. As you
can see the Spanish controlled the Far West. Of
course most of these territories were uninhabited
in those days but you could find many French
colonies. Even today there are still many French
speaking persons in la Nouvelle-Orléans, mainly
due to the Acadians deportation by the British
between 1755 and 1762.
New France in 1750 New France, which included
Canada, was the French empire in North America.
By 1750 fur traders had expanded it in the
northwest, although wars with the British had
reduced it in the east. Isle Royale was the
remnant of French Acadia, most of which the
British ruled as Nova Scotia. The French still
maintained forts in the part west of the Bay of
Fundy (cross-hatched area). Actual French
settlement was largely limited to present-day
Nova Scotia, Québec province, Illinois, and
Louisiana French influence extended farther
through alliances with the indigenous nations for
trade and defense. French Canadians are descendant
s of the habitants, the French-speaking peasants
who stayed on in Québec after the French lost
their North American territories to the British
in the 1760s.
Québec Today
This is Québec today. Even though we lost a lot
of territories to the United States and that the
frontiers of the provinces were drawn to maximize
assimilation by leaving out at least 1 million
French speaking people in the provinces of
Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, we can
still put four times France in the territory of
Québec. Todays French speaking population of the
whole Canada is about 8 million (one quarter of
Canada), almost the population of Belgium (10
million). And most of them dont speak English,
dont read in English and dont watch English
television. This is one of the main reasons why
we have so many publishers, television stations,
authors, books, arts in French, because even what
is French from France does not reach us as much
as what is American but translated into French.
  • History of Québecs Literature
  • The distinctive complexion of French Canadian
    literature is due in large part to the national
    spirit of the French-speaking, predominantly
    Roman Catholic habitants and to tensions inherent
    in their social, political, and geographic
    situation. This situation is characterized by
    isolation and a feeling of being threatened by
    the larger, primarily Protestant and
    English-speaking culture in North America.
  • French Canadian literature, properly speaking,
    began with the introduction of a printing press
    and the founding of a weekly bilingual newspaper,
    the Québec Gazette, in 1764. However, the sense
    of a specific literature different from that of
    France did not take hold until the 1840s. From
    then on, for well over a century, literature was
    an important tool in French Canadas ongoing
    struggle for cultural survival, and its themes of
    language, culture, religion, and politics
    reflected the evolving nature of that struggle.
    By the end of the 20th century, literature in
    Québec had become multiethnic, cosmopolitan, and
    confident of its identity.
  • On a historical level, Québecs literature was
    born from the "reports of the Jesuits" sent in
    Nouvelle-France by the French. Then this
    literature of ethnologists (which described the
    places, people, manners, the climate in very
    Christian terms) little by little left the place
    to tales (transcription of oral stories) and to
    the account of combat (against English and the
    "savages"). As of this time, Québecs literature
    was a literature of assertion and resistance,
    which it remained until the Seventies. The quiet
    revolution changed this as from the seventies
    Quebeckers had the impression to have won. They
    were not threatened any more and their literature
    lost its claiming aspects to become more ludic,
    light, even commercial. It also lost much of its
    rigor because of the revalorization of the
    popular language (joual). For the past twenty
    years the great challenge of Québecs literature
    has been to account for the great stakes of our
    time (political, immigration, society, etc.)
    which has not happened yet.

  • Catholic, censorship, Quiet Revolution
    (Révolution Tranquille)
  • The Catholic religion has played a big role in
    literature in Québec and before 1960 Québec was
    one of the most censored place in the world
    because directly under the powers of the clergy.
    No wonder the quiet revolution happened and that
    suddenly Québecs literature became one of the
    most liberated in the world, celebrating the gay
    culture, transvestites and other subjects that
    were never mentioned before.
  • Politics
  • Politics played a major role in Quebecs
    literature. It was not the best literature that
    was inspired from the social and political
    situation, but it is the literature that survived
    through the years because it was telling the
    history. One of the worst books I read from a
    French-Canadian author was Le Libraire from
    Gérard Bessette and it only survived time because
    it was describing the socio-political situation
    in Canada and the censorship exerted by the
    priests. The lesson here is that if you wish to
    be remembered as an author, you should talk about
    the history of your country, politics, and the
    social life of the time. It is now very hard in
    Québec to find a book that does not deal with
    this search for a distinctive identity different
    from the rest of the planet and the political
    situation about an eventual separation of Québec
    from the rest of Canada.
  • An Identity
  • It is much more desirable for a French-Canadian
    author to be published in France, it is like
    consecration, like a British writer would love to
    be published in America. It is also very
    difficult if not impossible. This said Québec has
    nothing to envy to France. There are many
    publishers in Québec publishing in French and so
    many authors even though there are not many
    readers, that there is no question about it
    there is a French-Canadian culture and la
    Littérature Québécoise exists. Sometimes France
    can even be ignored, what is important is to say
    to the English Canadians We are here, we have a
    culture!. So much so that English Canadians
    started in recent years to wonder if they had an
    identity to differentiate themselves from

  • Québec and France
  • It is more common today to have French-Canadians
    published in France but it is still a slow and
    uneasy process. Only the best authors succeed.
    Since France and Quebec undertook real cultural
    exchanges in the Forties and after the 2nd World
    War, almost all of the principal Québecs authors
    were published in France Gabrielle Roy, Claire
    Martin, Bertrand Vac, Jacques Godbout, Anne
    Hébert, etc. Then little by little Quebec began
    to build its own publishing structures
    (non-existent before the 2nd World War) and from
    that point it was no longer necessary to go and
    get published in Paris. This practice thus
    disappeared with time and Quebecs authors and
    Frenchs publishers lost sight of each other.
    Today if an author makes it big they simply get
    published in France by a publisher that has an
    agreement with a Québecs publisher. These
    authors are often translated in many languages,
    often up to 26.
  • Verbal communication - French-Canadian compared
    with French from France
  • The difference between the French that we talk in
    Québec with the French talked in France today is
    as big as the difference between the American
    English and the British English. The only
    difference is that in Québec we have kept the
    Napoleonian French while in France the standards
    have changed progressively over the years.
    Québecs French, including many expressions and
    folks songs, is very similar to the French we
    can find in Belgium, Catalan (Spain), Switzerland
    and other previous French colonies. Sometimes in
    Spain you hear people speaking Catalan and
    sometimes even Spanish, and you could think they
    speak French-Canadian, until the background noise
    cease and then you know they are speaking Catalan
    or Spanish.
  • Written texts and literature - French-Canadian
    compared with French from France
  • The written French in Québec is very similar to
    the written French in France, exactly like the
    written English in the US is comparable to the
    written English in Britain. Only some expressions
    are different and sometimes some words are
    written differently. Instead of growing apart,
    the level of French in Québec is getting better
    and closer to the French of France. There is a
    desire to bridge the differences and to get the
    standards up.

  • Québecs Literature
  • Links on the Internet in French
  • LÎle www.litterature.org www.litterature.org/a
  • Littérature québécoise http//felix.cyberscol.qc.
  • La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec, free
    e-books of authors from Québec and France now in
    the public domain http//jydupuis.apinc.org
  • Links on the Internet in English
  • National Library of Canada www.nlc-bnc.ca
  • US Internet Movie Database http//us.imdb.com
  • Online bookstores www.amazon.com
  • A good book in French
  • La Littérature Québécoise by Laurent Mailhot,
    Typo Publisher (Montréal), Essais
  • A good resource in English
  • Encarta Encyclopedia 2003 on CD-ROM or DVD

  • Anne Hébert (Poetry and Novels)
  • (Sainte-Catherine-de-Fossambault, Québec,
  • French-Canadian poet and novelist, much of whose
    work describes the conflict between the outer,
    modern world and the inner life of the creative
    artist. Born in Saint-Catherine-de-Fossambault,
    Québec, Hébert grew up in the city of Québec. She
    moved to Paris in the mid-1950s. In her books
    Hébert explores the sense of alienation and
    isolation felt by artists, but she also stresses
    the need to work in the everyday world as a way
    to spiritual redemption. She is known for her
    precise descriptions of the physical world.
  • Many of Hébert's works explore the theme of
    awareness after revolt against violent
    oppression. Her first novel, Les chambres de bois
    (1958 The Silent Rooms,1974), is the story of a
    young woman who returns to a more natural and
    simple life after being imprisoned by her
    husband. Hébert's later novelssuch as Kamouraska
    (1970 translated 1973) Les enfants du sabbat
    (1975 Children of the Black Sabbath,1977) and
    Les fous de Bassan (1982 In the Shadow of the
    Wind,1983)are stories of demonic possession and
    murder. Hébert's other works include the novels
    Le premier jardin (1988) and L'enfant chargé de
    songes (The child full of dreams, 1992) the
    poetry volumes Les songes en équilibre (Dreams in
    Equilibrium, 1942) and Le jour n'a dégal que la
    nuit (Day Has No Equal but Night, 1994) and the
    short-story collection Le torrent (1950).
  • The violent eroticism of Héberts early work gave
    way to an increasing serenity and even nostalgia
    for the society from which she had voluntarily
    exiled herself in the 1950s. Anne Hébert shows
    that after more than three decades she can still
    evoke the mysteries of human existence.
  • Anne Hébert's highly regarded Les Fous de Bassan
    is a symbolic and mysterious story set in the
    village of Griffin Creek in 1936.
  • In Le premier jardin, Anne Hébert tells the story
    of actress Flora Fontanges, who returns from
    France to her hometown of Quebec City in the
    1970s to perform in a play. The invitation to
    return comes at a time of personal anguish, for
    her daughter has just died. Like Atwood's Elaine
    Risley, Flora Fontanges explores her hometown,
    recapturing with stunning accuracy the passionate
    history of the city and her own personal history.
  • As a result of Quebec's Catholic heritage, its
    writers often see human conflicts in terms of
    damnation and salvation. Anne Hébert's important
    novel, Les enfants du sabbat, set in a Quebec
    convent in the mid-1940's, is a visionary tale of
    a young girl's damnation.
  • Anne Hébert's Héloise is the story of a married
    man in Paris, whose encounter with a woman leads
    him into a life of fantasy.
  • Anne Hébert Center (French) www.usherbrooke.ca/fl

  • Michel Tremblay (Theater and Novels)
    (Montréal, 1942 - )
  • The novels and plays of Michel Tremblay, set in
    Montréals working-class neighborhoods and
    dealing with such themes as the politics of
    language, homosexuality, transvestites,
    prostitution, drug dealers and incest, explored
    the transformation of Québec society in the 60s
    and 70s. His plays were innovative in language
    and subject matter. They also experimented with
    staging and characters, often splitting the stage
    into different times or places or creating more
    than one version of a character.
  • Tremblay, who by the 1980s had published some 50
    volumes, also produced several new plays,
    including Albertine en cinq temps (1984
    Albertine in Five Times, 1986), using a cast of
    characters familiar from his earlier works. His
    most important works of the 1980s and 1990s were
    novels, including two additions to the
    multivolume Chroniques du plateau Mont-Royal Des
    nouvelles dEdouard (News of Edward, 1984) and Le
    premier quartier de la lune (1989 The First
    Quarter of the Moon, 1994). Tremblays Le coeur
    découvert (1986 The Heart Laid Bare, 1989) is a
    moving account of homosexual love. The explicitly
    autobiographical Un ange cornu avec des ailes de
    tôle (A Horned Angel with Tin Wings, 1994) traces
    Tremblays evolution from childhood to young
    adulthood through the books that were important
    to him.
  • The nostalgic trilogy evoking his childhood in
    working-class east-end Montréal in the 1940s
    consists of La grosse femme d'à côté est enceinte
    (1978 The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant,
    1981), Thérèse et Pierrette à l'école des
    saints-Anges (1980 Therese and Pierrette and the
    Little Hanging Angels, 1984), and La duchesse et
    le roturier (The Duchess and the Commoner, 1982).
  • Another expression of French Canadian
    self-confidence was an ongoing debate over
    whether writers should work in traditional French
    or in French as it was spoken in Canada. This
    issue took on epic proportions in a controversy
    over a play by Michel Tremblay, Les belles-soeurs
    (1968 translated 1974), which many critics found
    shocking in its use of colloquial language that
    was considered both ugly and crude. The play
    shows 15 working-class women from three
    generations laughing and quarreling after one of
    them wins a million trading stamps and asks the
    group to help her paste them into booklets.
    Tremblay brought the nature of the language
    controversy into sharp focus and delighted
    audiences by recreating the anglicized,
    impoverished, yet forceful language of the
    Montréal working class. In so doing, he helped
    bring French Canadian drama to the attention of
    the world.
  • Tremblay's Le Vrai Monde?, for Le Theatre
    Français, looked at how a writer uses his life in
    his work. In Douze coups de théâtre (Twelve
    theater pieces) Quebec's foremost playwright,
    Michel Tremblay, offers souvenirs of his
    discovery of the theater and the text of his
    first prizewinning play. Michel Tremblay presents
    in C't'à ton tour Laura Cadieux a gathering of
    women, playing cards in the waiting room of a
    gynecologist. And from Québec came Michel
    Tremblay's Hosanna, about a homosexual
    relationship between a motorcyclist and a
    hairdresser. Michel Tremblay's Bonjour la
    Bonjour, is about an incestuous family.
  • Focused more narrowly on Montreal, indeed
    centered on the now mythic Rue Fabre, is Michel
    Tremblay's Le premier quartier de la lune, the
    fifth and final volume of his Chroniques de
    MontRoyal. The action takes place on June 20,
    1952 it is the last day of school, the moment
    when summer seems to offer hope in the difficult
    world of nine-year-old Marcel and young people
    like him. Alienated from the world around him by
    worsening epilepsy, Marcel creates a dream world
    in his solitary life with his cat, Duplessis.
  • Main website http//membres.lycos.fr/karmina/inde

  • Réjean Ducharme (Novels)
  • (Saint-Félix-de-Valois, Québec, 1941 - )
  • Novelist and playwright Réjean Ducharme spent
    seven months in the Canadian Air Force in 1962,
    then worked as a salesman, office clerk and cab
    driver before travelling across Canada, the
    United States and Mexico for three years.
  • Ten of his works have been published by Gallimard
    which is an accomplishment, given the prestige of
    this French publishing company. His first novel,
    LAvalée des avalées (1966), won the Governor
    Generals Literary Award in 1967. His second
    novel, Le Nez qui voque (1967), was awarded the
    Prix littéraire de la province de Québec. These
    two, plus a third novel, LOcéantume (1968), were
    published during the years of the Quiet
    Revolution in Quebec and made a significant
    impact. Ducharme wrote the plays, Le Cid maghané
    and Ines Pérée et Inat Tendu in 1968, and Ha ha!
    which won the Governor Generals Literary Award
    in 1982. He received the Prix Belgique-Canada in
    1973 for LHiver de force and the Prix
    France-Canada in 1976 for Les Enfantômes. In
    addition, he wrote the lyrics of several songs
    for Robert Charlebois (1976). Ducharme also wrote
    the screenplay for two very successful films Les
    Bons Débarras (1979) and Les Beaux Souvenirs
    (1981) produced by Francis Mankiewicz. After a
    14-year silence, Ducharme surprised the world
    with two novels, Dévadé (1990) and Va savoir
    (1994). Réjean Ducharme is considered one of the
    most significant and original voices in Quebec
    literary history. He has also exhibited his
    sculptures and paintings created with found
    objects, under the pseudonym Roch Plante.
  • Even those writers who avoided political themes
    expressed the tensions inherent in the Québecois
    situation. Réjean Ducharmes novel L'avalée des
    avalés (1966 The Swallower Swallowed, 1968)
    portrays the anger of an adolescent girl who is
    half Jewish and half Catholic. The girl feels
    dominated by her mother and torn between her
    contradictory cultural and linguistic heritages.
  • In L'Océantume, Réjean Ducharme returned to his
    fantasy world of children and explored their
    bizarre relationships.
  • In French Canada the most intriguing poetry event
    was novelist Rejean Ducharme's poetry-novel La
    fille de Christophe Colomb, a surreal attempt in
    more than 1,000 quatrains of sophomoric doggerel
    to follow the heroine in her search for true

  • Robert Lepage (Theater, Movies, Actor)
    (Québec, 1957 - )
  • Robert Lepage was born in Quebec City on December
    12, 1957 and was admitted to the Conservatoire
    d'art dramatique de Québec in 1975. After
    graduating in 1978, he went on to Paris to
    complete his training at Alain Knapp's theatre
    school. He later returned to his hometown where
    he contributed to several creations as an actor,
    author, and director. Then in 1980, he joined the
    Théâtre Repère, a Quebec City theatre company
    where, within a few years, he was to make his
    name as one of the major creative forces of his
  • Circulations, which was created in 1984 and
    presented throughout Canada, won the Best
    Canadian Production Award at the Quinzaine
    internationale de théâtre de Québec. It was in
    1985, however, with The Dragons Trilogy, that
    his work was to be internationally recognized.
  • In 1986, he created Vinci, his first solo
    performance, which notably won the Prix Coup de
    Pouce at the Festival Off dAvignon, the Best
    Creation Award at the Festival de Nyon, and the
    Best Staging Award by the Association québécoise
    des critiques de théâtre. The following year, The
    Polygraph won the Time Out/01 Production Award in
    London, and the Chalmers Award in Toronto.
    Finally, in 1988, The Tectonic Plates confirmed
    his reputation on many stages throughout North
    America and Europe.
  • Canadian cinema received a transfusion of fresh
    blood in 1995 with a large crop of films from
    writer-directors making their first features. The
    most keenly anticipated debut was by Quebec
    superstar stage director Robert Lepage, whose Le
    confessionnal (The confessional) opened the
    Directors' Fortnight program at the Cannes Film
    Festival. Ingenious, complex, and ambitious, Le
    confessionnal is psychological drama set against
    the backdrop of Alfred Hitchcock shooting his
    1953 film noir I Confess in Quebec City. Lothaire
    Bluteau stars as an artist who helps his adopted
    brother unravel the mystery of his birth.
    Jockeying between two time frames, Lepage
    displays the visual sleight of hand that
    distinguishes his stage work. His controlled
    direction leaves a cold impression, but the
    brilliance of the film, which received 12 Genie
    nominations, is undeniable. He made many more
    movies since and won many awards.
  • Internationally, Quebec director Robert Lepage,
    known for his dreamlike, highly visual collective
    theater, attained international renown this year
    with his production of a A Midsummer Night's
    Dream at the National Theatre in London. The
    entire play took place in a pit filled with mud
    and was instantly in demand in Japan and
    throughout Europe.
  • Quebec's Robert Lepage continued to create some
    of the most innovative visual theater in the
    world, presenting Needles and Opium, a one-man
    show he wrote, directed, and performed, at the
    National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Among festivals,
    World Stage, a biennial Toronto event, scored
    record attendance with a program that included
    Needles and Opium, a one-man show about Jean
    Cocteau and Miles Davis written and performed by
    Quebec director Robert Lepage.
  • In 1993, he once again expressed his interest for
    music when he staged Peter Gabriel's Secret World
    Tour, which was presented around the world. That
    same year, he was very much in demand by various
    theaters around the world. For example, he staged
    Macbeth and The Tempest in Japanese versions at
    the Tokyo Globe. The following year, Stockholm
    welcomed him for the set designing and staging of
    August Strindberg's A Dreamplay.

  • Jacques Godbout (Novels, Films) (Montréal, 1933 -
  • After completing an MA in French literature at
    the University of Montreal, Jacques Godbout
    taught for several years at Addis Ababa
    University in Ethiopia. On returning to Canada in
    1957, he worked in advertising before joining the
    National Film Board as a writer in the French
    department. In 1961, he directed his first
    documentary short and he has been an NFB
    filmmaker ever since. In all, he has directed
    some 30 films, including four dramatic features.
  • Godbout is an equally prolific author, having
    published numerous essays, novels and poetry
    collections, written radio dramas for
    Radio-Canada and France's national network, and
    contributed to a number of periodicals, including
    Parti pris, Les Lettres françaises, Maclean's,
    Les Nouvelles littéraires and L'Actualité, and
    newspapers such as Le Jour and Le Devoir.
  • Godbouts witty and urbane novels Une histoire
    américaine (1986 An American Story, 1988) and Le
    temps des Galarneau (1994 The Golden Galarneaus,
    1995) document the shift in attitudes and trends
    regarding language, politics, and consumer
  • Novelist Jacques Godbout was convinced that
    French Canadians were first of all a North
    American species, subject to all the pressures of
    American society. He concocted a lively and
    amusing version of Québecois French to explain
    the dilemmas created by these pressures in Salut
    Galarneau! (1967 Hail Galarneau!, 1970).
  • In Jacques Godbout's Une histoire américaine, the
    protagonist, a communications expert named
    Gregory Francoeur, accepts an invitation to
    deliver a series of talks at Berkeley on the
    subject of Quebec within Canada. An incurable
    dreamer, Francoeur presents a journal within the
    novel, and his California is far from paradise.
  • One of the most arresting of the late 1981 novels
    was Jacques Godbout's allegory of Quebec
    political life, Les Têtes à Papineau. It tells of
    a man with two heads, one speaking English and
    the other French, and of the operation to
    separate them.
  • Godbout was awarded the Prix Duvernay by the St
    Jean Baptiste Sociey for the body of his literary
    work in 1972, the Prix Belgique-Canada in 1978
    and the Prix du Québec (Athanase-David) in 1985.
    He also received an honorary EUROFIPA award at
    the 7th International Audiovisual Program
    Festival in Cannes in 1994.

  • Gabrielle Roy (Novels)
  • (Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, 1909-1983)
  • Gabrielle Roy was a Canadian novelist, a
    short-story writer and a journalist. Her first
    novel, Bonheur doccasion (1945 The Tin Flute,
    1947), broke new ground in its depiction of urban
    life in French-speaking Canada. Roy was renowned
    for her poetic style as well as her compassion
    for her characters, who range from the humble
    urban working class to the Ukrainian immigrants
    who settled the prairies of western Canada.
  • Roys first novel, Bonheur doccasion, is
    considered a masterpiece of social realism.
    Unlike most preceding Québec novels, which
    depicted rural settings and simple country folk,
    Bonheur doccasion innovatively portrayed the
    urban environment of Montréal and its
    working-class neighborhood, Saint-Henri, during
    World War II (1939-1945). The novel features
    concerns that preoccupied Roy throughout her
    career, such as the misery of the homeless, the
    poverty of the working class, and the inequity of
    womens social position. As her other works do,
    the novel conceives of life as a voyage of
    discovery and self-realization. Bonheur
    doccasion became the first Canadian novel to win
    the Prix Fémina, a major French literary award.
    Roys other major urban novel is Alexandre
    Chenevert (1954 The Cashier, 1955). It features
    a common mans struggle with life in modern
    society, alienated in a large city and surrounded
    by seemingly constant news reports of disaster
    and plight.
  • Most of Roys other major works are based on her
    experiences growing up and working as a teacher
    on the Manitoba prairies. These books include the
    story collections La petite poule deau (1950
    Where Nests the Water Hen, 1951), Rue
    Deschambault (1955 Street of Riches, 1957), La
    route dAltamont (1966 The Road past Altamont,
    1966), and Ces enfants de ma vie (1977 Children
    of My Heart, 1979). Two other works, the novel La
    montagne secrete (1961 The Hidden Mountain,
    1962) and the story collection La rivière sans
    repos (1970 Windflower, 1970), are set in the
    Canadian Arctic. Her autobiography, La détresse
    et lenchantement (1984 Enchantment and Sorrow,
    1987), was published after her death. Roy
    received three Governor Generals Literary
    Awards, for the English translations of Bonheur
    doccasion and Rue Deschambault and for Ces
    enfants de ma vie.
  • Gabrielle Roy undertakes psychological drama of a
    different kind in Un jardin au bout du monde,
    which explores the consciousness of a Quebec
    woman as well as of generations of immigrants to
    Quebec. La route d'Altamont (The Road Past
    Altamont) displayed a nostalgic sadness in four
    loosely connected sketches dealing with growing
    up and growing old. Street of Riches, a quietly
    moving study, partly autobiographical, of the
    awakening sensibilities of a French-Canadian girl
    growing up in the suburbs of Winnipeg.
  • Significantly, all the novels written in French
    during the year 1955 deal with the problems of
    guilt or sin faced by the French-Canadian who
    strives for individual freedom. Gabrielle Roy's
    Alexandre Chenevert is a tender and sensitive
    analysis of the attempts of a fear-ridden little
    clerk to escape from the meaningless repetitions
    of urban drudgery and from the inhumanities of a
    narrow religion. This is accomplished through
    humility, a tender pity for the sufferings of
    humanity, and a love for the beauties of nature.
    Roy heralded a new phase in French Canadian life
    and its reflection in literature. Henceforth,
    with the rapidly expanding city of Montréal as
    the nucleus for a new literary culture, French
    Canadian writers would be preoccupied with the
    problems of urbanization.

  • Marie-Claire Blais (Novels)
  • (Québec, October 1939 - )
  • Marie-Claire Blais published her first novel, La
    Belle Bête, at the age of 20. It is not as much
    about her native Québec Province as about a
    family inhabiting a somber landscape shut off
    from other people and from love. After winning a
    bursary from the Gugenheim Foundation in the
    United States, Marie-Claire Blais wrote Une
    Saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel in 1965, which was
    widely circulated at an astonishing speed. Like
    her other works, it is a bleak story of people
    locked in their own degraded, poverty-stricken
    worlds. An author of plays and poetry, Blais used
    dramatic and poetic techniques in the novella Le
    jour est noir (1962 The Day Is Dark,1967). A
    more specifically French-Canadian setting,
    however, forms the background of St. Lawrence
    Blues (1973 trans. 1974).
  • More than 20 novels, five plays, and collections
    of poetry which appeared at that time in France
    and in Quebec have been translated into English.
    Just to name a few at random, there are Tête
    blanche (1980) L'Insoumise (1966) David Sterne
    (1967) Vivre! Vivre! (1969) Pierre (1986)
    L'Ange de la solitude (1989) and Un Jardin dans
    la tempête (1990). Her most recent novel, Soifs,
    appeared in 1995.
  • Marie-Claire Blais was the recipient of many
    awards, such as the Prix de la langue française
    for La Belle Bête (1961), the Prix France-Québec
    and the Governor General's Award for Les
    Manuscrits de Pauline Archange (1969) and Le
    Sourd dans la ville (1979), the Prix
    Belgique-Canada in 1976, and the Prix
    Athanase-David in 1982 for all her works, and the
    Prix de l'Académie française for Visions d'Anna
    (1983). In 1993, she was elected member of the
    Académie royale de langue et de littérature
    françaises de Belgique.
  • In Quebec fiction, Marie-Claire Blais published
    the third volume in her sequence about the
    childhood and adolescence of Pauline Archange.
    Les apparences is marked by the same sensitivity
    that is evident in the earlier volumes, and there
    is a refreshing absence of Mlle Blais' customary
    Gothic horror.
  • Marie-Claire Blais' David Sterne was a
    Dostoevskian examination of three young men who
    commit suicide.
  • Marie-Claire Blais, in works such as Une saison
    dans la vie d'Emmanuel (1965 A Season in the
    Life of Emmanuel, 1966), showed the emptiness and
    hypocrisy of the traditional values that had
    previously allowed French Canadians to maintain
    their separateness she particularly portrays the
    way these values often victimized women and

  • Antonine Maillet (Novels)
  • (Bouctouche, New-Brunswick, 1929 - )
  • Novelist and playwright Antonine Maillet attended
    school in Bouctouche, Memramcook, Moncton,
    Montreal and Quebec City. Since her first novel
    in 1958, Maillet has had 30 or so works
    published. In the course of her career, she has
    won many literary awards, including the Prix
    Champlain for Pointe-aux-Coques (1958), the
    Governor General's award for Don l'Orignal
    (1972), le Grand Prix de la Ville de Montréal for
    Mariaagélas (1973), and the much coveted Prix
    Goncourt for Pélagie-la-Charrette (1979).
  • From the start of her career, Antonine Maillet
    has drawn on Acadian history, language, folklore,
    traditions and geographical features -- in short,
    the uniqueness of her native region provides
    material and inspiration for her writing. Several
    of her works are peopled by vividly portrayed
    characters who share the same surroundings an
    imaginary place reminiscent of Bouctouche, where
    she was born. Her fervent attachment to Acadia
    and its people has contributed greatly to the
    development of a thriving culture in the last few
    decades. However, as she pointed out recently at
    the Acadian World Congress, her people still have
    a long way to go "Acadia needs to say what it
    is that it is part of Canada, that it is part of
    America, that it is part of the international
    fraternity of Francophone nations, and that it
    therefore has its own place in the world -- a
    place that is unique, just as each of the world's
    peoples is unique."
  • "...the French folks is the folks fr'm France,
    les Français de France. 'n fer that matter, we're
    even less Français de France than we're
    Americans. We're more like French Canadians, they
    told us. Well, that ain't true either. French
    Canadians are those that live in Québec. They
    call'em Canayens or Québécois. But how can we be
    Québécois if we ain't livin in Québec? Fer the
    love of Christ, where do we live? ...In Acadie,
    we was told, 'n we're supposed to be Acadjens.
    So, that's the way we decided to answer the
    question 'bout nationality Acadjens we says to
    them. Now then, we can be sure of one thing,
    we're the only ones to have that name."
  • Antonine Maillet's Mariaagelas recalls smuggling
    in the region of Acadia during Prohibition.
  • Evangeline deusse (1975 Evangeline the Second,
    1987) explore Acadian folklore and history.
  • Maillet is best known for her dramatic monologue
    La sagouine (1971 translated 1979) and a series
    of novels and plays based on Acadian life and
    history, including Pélagie-la-Charrette (1979
    Pélagie The Return to a Homeland, 1982).
    Pélagie-la-Charrette was the first work written
    outside of France to win the Prix Goncourt,
    France's prestigious literary award. The novel is
    about the Acadians' return from exile in
  • Notable books for children included Antonine
    Maillet's delightful Christophe Cartier de la
    Noisette dit Nounours.

  • Émile Nelligan (Poetry) (Montréal, 1879 - 1941)
  • Émile Nelligan, an outstanding turn-of-the-century
    writer, is French-Canadas most beloved and
    admired poet. A romantic figure whose literary
    career was tragically short-lived, Nelligan
    ushered French-Canadian poetry into the modern
    age. Nelligan was born in Montreal on Christmas
    Eve, 1879. His parents, who had a troubled
    marriage, embodied the two solitudes of Canada.
    His father, David Nelligan, was an Irish
    immigrant with little appreciation for
    French-Canadian language or culture. His work as
    a postal inspector necessitated frequent absences
    from home. Nelligans mother, Émilie-Amanda Hudon
    Nelligan was a French Canadian who was musically
    talented, proud of her culture and heritage and a
    devout Catholic.
  • In 1897, against his parents wishes, he
    abandoned his studies to pursue his poetry. He
    was actively writing verses and could envision no
    other profession for himself. In 1896, he met his
    mentor and future editor, the priest Eugène Seers
    (later called Louis Dantin) and Joseph Melançon,
    who introduced Nelligan to the literary circles
    of Montreal. Under the pseudonym Émile Kovar, he
    published his first poem "Rêve fantasque" in Le
    Samedi (June 13, 1896). By September of that
    year, eight more of his poems had appeared in
    local papers and journals such as Le Monde
    Illustré and Alliance nationale. Nelligans poems
    showed a remarkable sensitivity to the power of
    words and the music of language and were tinged
    with melancholy and nostalgia. By 1897, poems
    appeared for the first time in Le Monde Illustré
    and La Patrie under his real name, which was
    sometimes modified to "Nellighan" or "Nelighan".
  • In 1899, at the age of 19, he was confined to a
    mental asylum, where he lived until his death in
    1941. During his years of confinement, Nelligan
    continued to write, but he had lost the capacity
    to create a body of work and spent his time
    rewriting his earlier poems from memory.
  • Émile Nelligans body of work comprises some 170
    poems, sonnets, rondels, songs and prose poems.
    Astonishingly, these were all written when he was
    between the ages of 16 and 19. Nelligan had
    published only 23 poems before his incarceration,
    but in 1904, thanks to the diligence of his
    friend Louis Dantin and with his mothers help,
    107 poems were published in Émile Nelligan et son
    oeuvre with a preface by Dantin.
  • Émile Nelligan was a pioneer of French-Canadian
    literature. In his poetry, he threw off the
    time-worn subjects of patriotism and fidelity to
    the land that had so occupied his literary
    predecessors, and explored the symbolic
    possibilities of language and his own, dark,
    inner landscape. Although his writing was
    influenced by symbolist poets such as
    Charles-Pierre Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud and
    English-language writers such as Lord Byron and
    Edgar Allan Poe, Nelligan created a poetic
    sensibility that was uniquely his own. In so
    doing, he struck a chord of recognition with
    French Canada that remains to this day, for his
    work continues to be celebrated. His poems have
    been translated into English, and he is the
    subject of numerous colloquia, films, novels,
    poems, and a ballet and an opera. A hundred years
    after he created his last poem, the poetic vision
    of Émile Nelligan endures.
  • Unlike other French Canadian writers of the 19th
    century, Nelligan makes no references to history
    or politics. However, critics have interpreted
    the dreams and frustrations he expresses as
    symbolic of the mood of the French Canadian
    people at the end of the century stifled by the
    control and political domination of the Roman
    Catholic Church.
  • Many of his poems can be found here

  • Hubert Aquin (Essays, Novels)
  • (Montréal, 1929 -1977)
  • Hubert Aquin was, briefly, Quebec's great
    warrior-intellectual. His life was short and
    intense between the late '50s and his suicide in
    1977 he wore the hats of novelist, essayist,
    terrorist agitator, politician, prisoner, film
    producer, literary editor, and stockbroker. After
    receiving his degree in philosophy from the
    University of Montreal, he spent three years at
    the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, then
    returned to the University of Montreal, where he
    studied for one year at the Institute of History.
    Aquin worked as a radio and television producer
    with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's
    Public Affairs division in Montreal and won many
    awards for his work as a director with the
    National Film Board.
  • Next Episode, Aquin's first novel, is a brilliant
    offshoot of its author's early political career.
    Written while Aquin was being held at a Montreal
    psychiatric hospital, pending trial for the
    possession of a stolen automobile and an
    automatic firearm, Next Episode is narrated by a
    young revolutionary, an Aquin double who's also
    imprisoned in a psychiatric institution. In an
    attempt to while away the hours, the narrator
    begins writing a kind of political thriller
    concerning a Québécois terrorist who, while
    abroad in Switzerland, unexpectedly rediscovers
    his long-lost lover, K., a sort of
    eternal-feminine figure and personification of
    the nation of Quebec. K. instructs the narrator
    to murder one H. de Heutz, a spy-banker-historian-
    aristocrat who has apparently been sending
    information about radical Québécois bank accounts
    to the RCMP. The convoluted chase that ensues is
    a Kafkaesque exercise in futility, in which the
    twinned agents pursue one another through a
    symbol-strewn landscape of cultural memory. Two
    factors are likely to keep Next Episode from ever
    gaining a wide readership in English Canada.
    Aquin's French is too rich and lyrical to
    translate well the ever-capable Sheila Fischman
    has produced a workable version of the text, but
    the florid, romantic prose of Next Episode will
    always sound forced in English. Furthermore, this
    is a book of great political and cultural
    specificity. Readers who have never lived in
    Quebec or are unfamiliar with its history will
    likely find the most crucial elements of the
    novel incomprehensible. Many readers will be able
    to enjoy the novel's acute deconstruction of the
    political thriller, but Next Episode's true fire
    lies in its nationalist fervour.
  • In Trou de mémoire, Hubert Aquin used the same
    amalgam of crime, metaphysics, sex, and politics
    as in his first novel, with the same dazzling
  • Hubert Aquin, in Neige noire, illuminates the
    political context of psychological obsessions.

  • Louis Hémon (Novels)
  • (Brest, France, 1880 - Chapleau, Ontario, 1913)
  • LOUIS HEMON (1880-1913) was born in Brest in
    France and began his writing career there, but
    emigrated first to London, and then to Quebec,
    the land with which his name is now indelibly
    linked (literally, in fact, as maps of the
    province show lakes bearing both his name and
    that of the heroine of his single masterpiece).
    After studying for a diplomatic career, he went
    to Canada in 1911 and worked as a farm laborer
    near Lac Saint-Jean, Québec, while gathering
    material for his major work, Maria Chapdelaine
    (1914 trans. 1921). He lived less than two years
    in rural Quebec, long enough to write Maria
    Chapdelaine, but not long enough to see its
    publication. He and a companion were killed by a
    train while walking along tracks in a remote part
    of Ontario.
  • The novel saw publication first in Paris, as a
    serial in Le Temps. It attracted no particular
    notice at first, but in 1921 an influential
    French literary critic revived it as the initial
    number of a popular series of books, and it
    became a best-seller both in France and in
    Quebec. A 1921 English translation, by W. H.
    Blake, appeared almost simultaneously, and
    likewise achieved popular success.
  • Three of Hémon's earlier novels and a travel
    journal were published posthumously.
  • In fiction, the novel of the land reached the
    level of great art with the appearance of Louis
    Hémons novel Maria Chapdelaine (1914 translated
    1921). An evocation of the harsh but exalting
    life of French Canadian settlers and of their
    struggle to keep their culture alive in a hostile
    Anglo-Saxon environment, the novel became a model
    for French Canadian writers.
  • In French fiction, the regional classicism of
    Louis Hémon's Maria Chapdelaine had given way to
    sociological and psychological studies of the
    clash between parochial traditionalism and
    various forms of liberalism and progress.
  • You can read it in English here

  • Denys Arcand (Screenwriter, Movies)
  • (Deschambault, Québec, 1941 -) (Brother of
    Gabriel Arcand, Famous Québec actor)
  • Denys Arcand was born on June 25, 1941 in
    Deschambault, a village about twenty-five miles
    southwest of Quebec City. He is known for his
    witty, irreverent films against the pervasive
    influences of the Roman Catholic clergy and the
    English Canadian establishment. Arcand made his
    first films in the 1960s during the Quiet
    Revolution, a period of renewed French Canadian
    nationalism and cultural identity. For many years
    Arcand directed films with strong political
    messages and struggled to find a broad audience.
    He came to international attention in the 1980s
    after some of his feature films won important
    awards at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
  • The French Canadian film director Denys Arcand
    had been making movies for twenty-five years
    when, in 1986, he became an "overnight sensation"
    with his witty satire on sex and society called
    The Decline of the American Empire (Le Déclin de
    lEmpire Américain). The critical and commercial
    success of that film thrust Arcand into the
    international spotlight and infused new life into
    his flagging career. Despite the academic
    pomposity of its title, the film is a witty
    comedy of manners about eight faculty
    membersfour male and four femalewho gather for
    a dinner party and discuss sex, history, and the
    relationship between men and women.
    Coincidentally, one of the female characters has
    written a book theorizing that, as civilizations
    approach collapse, people become more concerned
    about their own gratification than about their
    social responsibilities. All but one of the
    characters in the film seem intent on proving
    that theory correct.
  • Because Arcand had been careful to avoid
    references to Quebec or Canada, Le declin de
    l'empire Americain found a much broader audience
    than anything he had done before. Made for a
    modest 1.8 million, Le declin grossed more than
    30 million, won several major international
    awards, and took nine Genies, the Canadian
    equivalent of the Oscars. But even more
    gratifying for Arcand was the announcement in
    early 1987 that the film had been nominated for
    an Oscar in the best-foreign-language-film
    category, marking the first time that a Canadian
    feature film had been honored in that way.
  • Resisting the obvious temptation to make "Decline
    II," he began work on a totally different kind of
    film called Jesus of Montreal. The story involves
    a young actor named Daniel who is hired by the
    priest of a Montreal church to revitalize its
    annual passion play. The revised drama, which
    suggests that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a
    Roman soldier, is a popular success, but church
    officials find it offensive and want it stopped.
    When Daniel, whose actions in many ways begin to
    parallel those of Jesus, resists, conflict
  • Jesus de Montreal made its debut at the 1989
    Cannes Film Festival, where it captured the
    Special Jury Prize and created a sensation. The
    film went on to win twelve Genie awards,
    including those for best picture, best director,
    and best original screenplay, and an Academy
    Award nomination as the year's best foreign film.
    To Arcand's astonishment, the film also won the
    Ecumenical Prize from the Organisation Catholique
    Internationale du Cinema et de l'Audiovisuel. The
    success of Jesus de Montreal fortified Arcand's
    position as an international talent as gifted in
    directing commercial films as he had been with
    documentaries. It also led some observers to
    conclude that filmmaking in Quebec had at last
    come of age. As some critic noted, "Arcand's
    career mirrors Quebec's cultural evolution over
    the past two decades. His focus has shifted from
    the national to the personal, from political
    issues of oppression to sexual traumas of
    affluence. He appears to relish the paradox of
    his position."

Roland Michel Tremblay French Canadian author
published in Paris I have to say that Québec is
not known for having produced many intellectual
authors and that might explain why its
literature stays very local. Philosophy is
virtually non-existent and metaphysic is lost on
the readers. I am that sort of author who loves
metaphysic and complicated books, that do not
give all the answers to the reader and ask from
the readers a certain investment. My first
books were so difficult to understand that it was
hard for me to find anyone around willing to read
them. The Revolution is still a mystery to most
and my guess is that if it were to be studied in
a University, it would become a very interesting
book as there are a lot of different
interpretations at many levels and is not
necessarily taking a point of view. Even
referents are not present, the reader never
really know what is talked about in the book. For
this reason it has been very difficult for me to
find a publisher in Québec, they simply did not
have the market for this sort of books. Only a
French publisher could publish me, and even The
Revolution did not find a publisher in France.
I was lucky the Eclecticism was published but
I have to say that it is my least popular book,
even though I feel it is my best work. In time I
started to write simpler books like
Denfert-Rochereau and The Anarchist. The
scandalous value of The Anarchist was enough to
get me published and it is the book that opened
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