Novel in French
Although the Québec novel was born in the turbulent days preceding the REBELLIONS OF 1837, it bore no trace of those events.
Novel in French
Although the Québec novel was born in the turbulent days preceding the REBELLIONS OF 1837, it bore no trace of those events. Instead, it fictionalized real-life incidents (François-Réal Angers, Les Révélations du crime ou Cambray et ses complices, July 1837; tr The Canadian Brigand, 1867) or claimed kinship with Victor Hugo while borrowing heavily from the heritage of anecdotes, tales and legends (Philippe AUBERT DE GASPÉ, Jr, L'Influence d'un livre, 1837).
With Les Fiancés de 1812 (1844) by Joseph DOUTRE, the novel became resolutely Canadien and adventure oriented. The first part of Une de perdue, deux de trouvées (1849-51) by Georges Boucher de Boucherville was along these lines and led the way for the serialized novel which was developed by Henri-Émile Chevalier ("La Jolie Fille du faubourg Québec," 1854). The French authors of such serials (Alexandre Dumas, père, Eugène Sue, Frédéric Soulié) continued to be read, but the adventure story gave way to the rustic novel.
La Terre paternelle (1846) by Patrice Lacombe had the shape of a long short story and a clear message: one must not give up the family land or leave it for the city. Pierre-Joseph-Olivier CHAUVEAU (Charles Guérin) fell first under the influence of Honoré de Balzac (1846) and then turned to the theme of settling the land. Antoine GÉRIN-LAJOIE developed this theme in Jean Rivard, le défricheur (1862; tr Jean Rivard, 1977) and Jean Rivard, économiste (1864), in which his hero, who had left college in order to homestead, established a new parish in just a few years. Rivard became a role model whose example was preached, off and on, until the middle of the 20th century.
The historical novel emphasized the moral grandeur of the vanquished of 1760 (Philippe AUBERT DE GASPÉ, Sr, Les Anciens Canadiens, 1863; tr Canadians of Old, 1890), who, having fallen heroically before their opponents, nonetheless preserved their French soul, language and traditions. In Jacques et Marie (1865-66), Napoléon BOURASSA paid homage to the courage of the deportees of 1755 from ACADIA (lovers lose track of each other and then, after long periods of wandering, are reunited).
The Historical Novel
The best novels of the late 19th century (1866-95) are historical. Though Québecois read a great deal of Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper, authors such as Joseph Marmette (François de Bienville, 1870) and Laure Conan (the pseudonym of Félicité ANGERS) were more strongly influenced by François-Xavier GARNEAU, whose Histoire du Canada (tr History of Canada, 1860) began to appear in 1845, and by puritanical and conservative literary critic Henri-Raymond CASGRAIN. Marmette knew the historical material well but constructed his novels awkwardly, whereas Conan, the first female Québec novelist, knew better than previous writers how to develop complex characterizations (À L'Oeuvre et à l'épreuve, 1891, tr The Master Motive, 1909; L'Oublié, 1900). She undoubtedly owed her success to the experience she gained with Angéline de Montbrun (1881-82; tr 1975), considered to have been the first psychological novel written in Québec. Jules-Paul TARDIVEL moved forward in history rather than back: his nationalistic Pour la patrie (1895; tr 1975) was set in 1945, at a moment when French Canadians, after difficult political struggles, were finally about to win their own French and Catholic state.
The Rustic Novel
At the turn of the century, rustic novels were revived, at first in rather weary form by Ernest Choquette (Claude Paysan, 1899; La Terre, 1916) but then more confidently by Damase Potvin (Restons chez nous, 1908). However, it was a Frenchman, Louis HÉMON, who brought the genre to full flower. Readers were deeply moved by his MARIA CHAPDELAINE (tr 1973), which appeared in a French newspaper in Paris in 1914 and then in book form in Québec in 1916. In 1921, in France, this novel began its long international career: today, it is still the best known of all Québec works. Though it is criticized for its myopic view of Québec as a land of tillers of the soil where nothing has changed or should ever change, the impressionistic realism of Maria Chapdelaine nonetheless forced writers to modernize their style and to observe their fellow citizens with more care.
At about the same time (1918), La Scouine appeared discreetly - only 60 copies, privately printed. Albert Laberge divided his stark, unrelievedly sombre tale of a Québec farmer into 33 remarkably concise tableaus, all written in a style reminiscent of Émile Zola. This novel was rediscovered in 1958 and was translated as Bitter Bread in 1977. The rustic novel reached its culmination in 1938 with TRENTE ARPENTS (tr Thirty Acres, 1940) by Ringuet (pseudonym of Philippe PANNETON). Here the land, which in the 19th century had been viewed as society's salvation, no longer supported its master: these were the days of economic crisis, industrialization was occurring and rural people were being drawn to the city. Novels celebrating the cult of the soil were no longer written in Québec, except for the excellent LE SURVENANT (1945; tr The Outlander, 1950) by Germaine GUÈVREMONT, a kind of poetic revival of the genre.
Evolution of the Historical Novel
The historical novel knew a similar kind of evolution into the 20th century. Robert Laroque de Roquebrune published Les Habits rouges (1923), a tale of the early revolutionary events of 1837, and D'un océan à l'autre (1924), a history of Canada's expansion westward in the days of Louis RIEL (1869-85). Alain Grandbois produced a book with a unique style, Né à Québec ... (1933; tr Born in Quebec, 1964), a poetic prose account of the life of explorer Louis JOLLIET that displayed the gifts of this future poet to their best advantage. Léo-Paul DESROSIERS somewhat more prosaically recounted the early 19th-century FUR TRADE battles; his Les Engagés du grand portage (tr The Making of Nicolas Montour, 1978) was the most beautifully realized of all Québec historical novels. Even so, although Desrosiers was praised for his technique, reservations were expressed about the too neat, antithetical opposition of his characters, Nicolas Montour, the totally unscrupulous adventurer, and Louison Turenne, the flawlessly honest voyageur. This was the last of the tradition; the few historical novels that occasionally appeared thereafter were decidedly mediocre.
The historical novel had been the favoured art form of literary nationalism. Almost invariably, authors stressed the moral virtue of French Canadian and Acadian characters and the treacherous nature of Anglo-Saxon ones. Sometimes a few of the latter had redeeming qualities, or were even thoroughly good, but they rarely, if ever, triumphed over their Canadien counterparts. The rustic novels offered a more subtle version of the same approach. This accounts for the survival, well into the 20th century, of the Tardivel-style nationalistic novel. It takes a more refined form in L'Appel de la race (1922) by Lionel GROULX, a more poetic form in MENAUD MAÎTRE-DRAVEUR (1937; tr Master of the River, 1976) of Félix-Antoine SAVARD. L'Appel de la race is set against the background of the Franco-Ontarians' struggle for the right to French-language education: the race that thought itself superior was pitted against the race that was superior, both in the public drama and within the family, for the father had had the misfortune to marry an Anglophone. The original version of Menaud maître-draveur was a highly coloured epic in the Claudelian manner. Strangers come to the land of Maria Chapdelaine intending to seize its riches for themselves; Menaud, an old raftsman, undertakes the defence of his people, but the combat is illusory for the strangers remain invisible, a kind of gangrenous presence silently devouring an entire people. Menaud goes mad and his madness is a warning: death is on its way. And so it was, but it was only the death of a certain kind of nationalism.
The Psychological Novel
The psychological novel slowly developed as characters began to escape the usual stereotypes. Its progress can be traced from Angéline de Montbrun to Un Homme et son péché (1933) by Claude-Henri GRIGNON. A great reader of Balzac, Grignon drew, in all simplicity, the portrait of an avaricious peasant. Radio and then television turned Séraphin Poudrier into a new stereotype and he became the best-known fictional character in Québec. Rex Desmarchais, who read Maurice Barrès and Paul Bourget, pushed character analysis a step further (L'Initiatrice, 1932; Le Feu intérieur, 1933), but his novels were weak and it was only when the work of French writer François Mauriac began influencing authors in the 1940s that good psychological novels began to appear.
Even so, Desmarchais helped break ground that encouraged his successors to be more daring. They were able to free themselves from the narrow morality which had so hindered the development of the Québec novel and demand that their works be judged purely on aesthetic grounds. The novel of social criticism had great difficulty establishing itself, and for the same reason: only morality tales won the approval of the religious-literary institution, only conformist novels won that of the ecclesiastical-political establishment. In 1934, for example, an archbishop condemned Jean-Charles HARVEY's Les Demi-Civilisés (tr Sackcloth for Banner, 1938). The novel was poorly structured and badly written, but it had the luck to criticize hypocrisy at an opportune moment and it sold well. The great works in this field did not appear for another decade.
In 1938 the Québec novel was 100 years old. It was the expression of a people who had maintained their rural mentality despite the urbanization of the past 20 years and it had just produced its greatest examples of the 3 genres that its authors and readers collectively endorsed: the rustic novel (Trente arpents, 1938), the historical novel (Les Engagés du grand portage, 1938) and the nationalist novel (Menaud, maître-draveur, 1937). WWII would stimulate the move to the cities and exposure to the outside world; the individual would escape somewhat from the supervision of the authorities; and writers from the traditional ideologies, especially nationalism, freer than in earlier days, would move further away from the traditional ideologies. The novel changed its orientation, and thus came to know the city and the individual.
Novel in French, 1940-60
Some 300 narrative works (novels, personal accounts, collections of stories) were published in Québec between 1940 and 1960 - a total equal to the production of the entire preceding century and large enough to contain a respectable number of enduring works. In fiction, this 20-year period saw significant diversification of subject matter, notable improvement in technique and much greater psychological depth. The long tradition of the novel of the soil came to a beautiful end with the publication of Germaine Guèvremont's Le Survenant and Marie-Didace (1945, 1947; tr together as Monk's Reach, 1950). These books presented the day-to-day life of the people of Chenal du Moine at the turn of the century in a serene and realistic way, free of moralizing overtones. Yet they are more properly classified with the 1930s, kindred spirits to Ringuet's Trente arpents (1938), whereas Ringuet himself, after the Héritage stories (1946), turned his attention to city dwellers with Fausse monnaie (1947) and Le Poids du jour (1949).
The WWII years, which followed the GREAT DEPRESSION and increasing industrialization, changed the country's social and demographic realities to produce an urban world soon reflected in the mirror of fiction. Roger LEMELIN pioneered with his vivid, satirical account of life in a working-class Québec City neighbourhood, Au pied de la pente douce (1944; tr The Town Below, 1948). His very similar Les Plouffe (1948; tr The Plouffe Family, 1950) was followed by the uneven Fantaisies sur les péchés capitaux (1949) and then, in an abrupt change of pace, by the extravagant adventures of Pierre le magnifique (1952; tr In Quest of Splendour, 1955).
International acclaim greeted Gabrielle ROY's great novel of urban life, Bonheur d'occasion (1945; tr The Tin Flute, 1947) in which the moving story of Florentine and her poverty-stricken family was deftly set against the backdrop of Montréal's Saint-Henri district in early 1940 and a world at war. Roy excelled in her presentation of physical and social space but she was most interested in the psychological development of the individual and her grasp of it was deep and sure. Her subsequent works displayed her talents to the full - in the semiautobiographical La Petite Poule d'eau (1950; tr Where Nests the Water Hen, 1951), Rue Deschambault (1955; tr Street of Riches, 1957), and Alexandre Chenevert (1954; tr The Cashier, 1955), her touching story of a Montréal bank clerk tortured by metaphysical anguish and physical illness, who nonetheless arrives at a certain kind of personal peace and happiness.
The novel of psychological introspection first appeared during this period. In Ils posséderont la terre (1941), Robert CHARBONNEAU tried to maintain the autonomy of his adolescent characters even as he wrote about their lives and destinies, thereby respecting the principle he later developed in his essay Connaissance du personnage (1944), one of the era's few published theories on the art of the novel. The austerity and discipline of his first novel were admirable, but its excessive detachment was not - a defect even more pronounced in his next novel, Fontile (1945), and not fully corrected in Les Désirs et les jours (1948), the last in the trilogy.
The author of the psychological novel commonly uses every technique at his command to explore the nuances of his characters. André Giroux, in Au-delà des visages (1948), ingeniously examined one incident from a variety of viewpoints, which allowed him to develop every facet of his protagonist's deepest spiritual being. Some writers try to compensate for limited imagination with efficiency of narrative technique but, as Giroux's second novel, Le Gouffre a toujours soif (1953) and his collection of short stories, Malgré tout la joie (1959), both show, what really matters is to touch the core of the human condition.
A similar balance between technique and depth of comprehension exists in the works of some authors who wrote well but little and enjoyed only brief celebrity in the 1950s. In Robert Élie's La Fin des songes (1950; tr Farewell My Dreams, 1955) and Il Suffit d'un jour (1957), the basic elements of the human drama are obsession with the meaning of life, inevitable solitude and the lack of communication between people. In Jean Filiatrault's Terres stériles (1953), Chaînes (1955) and Le Refuge impossible (1957), love is just a mask for hatred in the troubled family relationships (filial, maternal, conjugal, fraternal, etc) of complex-ridden individuals. In Les Témoins (1954) and Les Inutiles (1956) by Eugène Cloutier, on the other hand, apparently gratuitous (but perhaps simply critical) fantasy replaces the agonized expression of the great problems of mankind, humanity's social maladjustment and fundamental absurdity.
Other novelists, more moralizing and deliberately abstract, had begun to write satirical tales that often verged on being essays instead. The characters in François Hertel's trilogy, Mondes chimériques (1940), Anatole Laplante, curieux homme (1944) and Journal d'Anatole Laplante (1947), mirror their author: free, cynical, without illusions, and garrulous, they study the trivia and important events of life with equal parts perception and irreverence. Pierre Baillargeon puts a great deal of himself, including his crisp and lively style, into the biting arguments of Les Médisances de Claude Perrin (1945) and Commerce (1947), and into the introverted but incisive protagonist of La Neige et le Feu (1948). Jean Simard draws on his own life for the ironic sketches of Félix, livre d'enfant pour adultes (1947) and Hôtel de la reine (1949). His Mon fils pourtant heureux (1956) was a more introspective work, its satire darker. In Les Sentiers de la nuit (1959), Simard seemed more objective but in fact, under cover of a well-executed caricature of Anglo-Saxon puritanism, he symbolically attacked French Canadian JANSENISM as well, handling the most serious of subjects - God, religion, suffering and death - in a touchingly humorous way.
The most important psychological novelist is unquestionably André LANGEVIN. He led the way in incorporating the universal themes of existentialism made famous in France by Sartre, Camus and others. His trilogy of novels on the theme of man's essential solitude argues that the only possible relationship between human beings leads inevitably to despair: it consists of the evil they inflict or themselves suffer, no matter how they try to avoid it. His characters, stripped of all transcendence, grapple with meaningless suffering in a strictly contingent universe. The randomness of their lives drives them to choose between extremes: either they seek the escape of suicide, like Jean Cherteffe in Évadé de la nuit (1951) or, however feeble or illusory their weapons, they try to fight their fate, like Alain Dubois in Poussière sur la ville (1953; tr Dust over the City, 1955) or Pierre Dupas in Le Temps des hommes (1956). In the first of these novels, Langevin failed to integrate his rigid metaphysical doctrine with the flesh-and-blood story of his protagonist. The other 2 works, however, each drawing in its own way on rich resources of time and space, achieve a high degree of aesthetic success.
These books seemed to drain Langevin, for he withdrew into silence until the publication of L'Élan d'Amérique (1972), which was followed in 1974 by Une Chaîne dans le parc. Yves THÉRIAULT, on the other hand, has become more productive over the years. The novel is only part of this author's infinite variety: he has also written hundreds of scripts for radio and television and numerous popular stories and novels for adolescents. Although 6 years elapsed between his highly original stories, Contes pour un homme seul (1944), and his first novel, La Fille laide (1950), his output thereafter was abundant - and, at times, of uneven quality.
Among his best works during the 1940-60 period are Le Dompteur d'ours (1951), Aaron (1954) and Agaguk (1958; tr 1963). Thériault has used his works to promote a wide variety of causes. The graphic presentation of man's unbridled instincts has inherent shock value: it preaches the authenticity of vigorous primitivism. The acts of sex and violent death in particular are of great value, both for the way they bring out the individuality of each character and for the role they play in the emancipation of the oppressed: all kinds of "little people" (Indians, Inuit, Jews), fighting the established structures, moral, religious, social and ethnic, that prevent their full growth as human beings.
One must complement the discussion of these outstanding writers with at least a mention of some of the others who have also made their contribution to the postwar Québec novel: Jean-Jules Richard, Neuf jours de haine (1948); Françoise Loranger, Mathieu (1949); Louis Dantin, Les Enfances de Fanny (1951); Roger Viau, Au milieu, la montagne (1951); Jean Vaillancourt, Les Canadiens errants (1954); René Ouvrard, La Veuve (1955); Maurice Gagnon, L'Échéance (1956); and Claire France, Les Enfants qui s'aiment (1956; tr Children in Love, 1959). Pierre Gélinas wrote Les Vivants, les morts et les autres (1959), one of very few novels depicting the labour movement.
Several novelists first appeared in this period but did not come into their own until the 1960s. Anne HÉBERT is one, notable for her Les Chambres du bois (1958; tr The Silent Rooms, 1974), a dream-novel that perhaps crosses the line into poetry, and especially for Le Torrent (1950; tr The Torrent, 1973), a collection of stories of many levels that reflects the whole spiritual adventure of the French Canadian people. Claire Martin polished her skills in a collection of elegantly biting short stories, Avec ou sans amour (1958), before tackling the novel with Doux-amer (1960), while Marie-Claire BLAIS found her voice in La Belle Bête (1959; tr Mad Shadows, 1971) and Tête blanche (1960; tr 1974), 2 stories of adolescent revolt played out in a dream state. Gérard BESSETTE published La Bagarre (1958; tr The Brawl, 1976), a novel of social events, and Le Libraire (1960; tr Not for Every Eye, 1963), which appeared at the perfect moment to contribute to the QUIET REVOLUTION, the "ideological exorcism" of Québec.
Novel in French, 1960-80s
During the 1960s and 1970s new developments in the Québec novel coincided with important social changes. Although it did not provide a direct reflection of reality, the novel nevertheless interacted with other current forms of discourse and in this way responded to its social environment. The arrival of a new generation of writers during the Quiet Revolution helped turn these changes into something of an event - a dramatic period of contestation and rebellion, from which the Québec novel emerged transformed.
Several writers advocated the use of popular levels of language (JOUAL) in order to portray more accurately the long-ignored realities of the working class. Initially these writers were connected with the magazine PARTI PRIS. Jacques RENAUD (Le Cassé, 1964) and André MAJOR (Le Cabochon, 1964, and La Chair de poule, 1965) contributed to bringing about this transformation, using popular forms of language to reflect and symbolize the degrading effects of self-contempt, colonization and social deprivation. Apart from the political implications of writing in joual, this new approach rapidly led to the formulation of a new kind of literary style exemplified by Jacques GODBOUT in SALUT GALARNEAU! (1967) and Victor-Lévy BEAULIEU in Race de monde (1969) and La Nuitte de Malcomm Hudd (1969). For all these writers the juxtaposition of different levels of language was a way of establishing a new linguistic identity and of setting out a new conception of Québec reality.
The same period brought the appearance of extremist characters who personified or expressed revolt, radicalism and intransigence, such as the revolutionaries in Hubert AQUIN's Prochain épisode (1965) and Trou de mémoire (1968), and Claude Jasmin's Ethel et le terroriste (1964). Réjean DUCHARME's character Bérénice in l'Avalée des avalés (1966) is a clear example of this dynamic negativism whose goal is to sweep away all existing social and cultural values. Bérénice provides the foremost expression of an impulse to deny reality, which to varying degrees motivates the characters in many of the novels of this decade. As in Ducharme's works, this rejection is personified by children and adolescents in the writing of Marie-Claire Blais (Une saison dans la vie d'Émmanuel, 1965, L'Insoumise, 1966, Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange, 1968, and David Sterne, 1967). The values of childhood and art are often presented as a refuge from the degraded world of adults.
In many cases subversion or repudiation is expressed in parody. The novels reinterpret history and ridicule older forms of writing and obsolete values in order both to laugh at them and to advocate their opposites. In LA GUERRE, YES SIR! (1968) Roch CARRIER presents a carnival-like version of the CONSCRIPTION crisis by showing farmers in the process of gleefully reversing the "civilized" values of the army and the church. In Le Ciel de Québec (1969) Jacques FERRON presents an absurd mock epic dealing with Québec history and French Canadian messianism, and at the same time settles his accounts with writers of the previous generation (such as Saint-Denys Garneau and Jean LE MOYNE). Irony also provides an important dimension to Blais's Une Saison ... and Les Manuscrits ..., in which she parodies "uplifting" literature, and the writing of Ducharme, who mocks and inverts many different styles in La Fille de Christophe Colomb (1969) and L'Hiver de force (1973).
These stories not only undermine history and contest it; they also propose a new version of it. This reinterpretation and reconstruction of history connects with the use of joual in that it brings the oral tradition (see ORAL LITERATURE) back into literature. In this way the historical novel and the novel of the land are reinterpreted in the light of a new form of awareness: the awareness of being dominated. This can be seen in the work of Antonine MAILLET and Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, among others. It is the voice of the people that is heard when Maillet recalls the Acadians' historical misfortunes and the delights of their language in a series of novels culminating in Les Cordes de bois (1977), Pélagie-la-charrette (Prix Goncourt, 1979) and Cent ans dans les bois (1981, republished 1982 in France as La Gribouille). For his part, Beaulieu tells the "true saga of the Beauchemins," a grandiose and preposterous story of a working-class family transplanted from the Gaspé coast to the sleepy suburb of Montréal-Nord (or, as he writes it, Moréal-Mort). By 1985, 6 titles in the series had been published: Race de monde (1969), Jos Connaissant (1970), Les Grands-pères (1971), Don Quichotte de la démanche (1974), Satan Belhumeur (1981) and Steven le Hérault (1985).
In a similar vein to these extended series, a number of other novels were involved in transforming or contesting the novel's basic conventions. Previously Gérard Bessette, in L'Incubation (1965) and Le Cycle (1971), and André Langevin, in L'Élan d'Amérique (1972), had introduced new ways of telling a story along the lines of the "nouveau roman" in France. In the writing of Aquin and Beaulieu the ambiguities of the narration create some uncertainty in the story, since the plot does not evolve in the usual chronological order. For these writers, however, the ambiguities stem from the social and political alienation they are intended to reflect. For others such as Jean-Marie Poupart, in Angoisse play (1968), Chère Touffe, c'est plein plein de fautes dans ta lettre d'amour (1973) and C'est pas donné à tout le monde d'avoir une belle mort (1974), and Jacques BENOÎT, in Patience et Firlipon (1970), the interrogation and disintegration of the traditional narrative structure are more gratuitous and playful, with the narrator thinking aloud about his telling of the story. More than the theme of the writer as hero, the act of writing itself has now become a determining factor in the process of narration.
Even an early novel such as Bessette's Le Libraire (1960) contains statements that undermine the story's realism: it is the narrator himself who invites us to undertake a second reading by describing the room in which he is writing his diary as having dimensions (8 1/2´ x 11´) that are analagous to those of the sheet of paper on which he is writing (8 1/2´ x 11´). To Bessette, in this example, and especially to Aquin and Beaulieu, historical references often become a metaphor for the process of writing. At its most extreme, as critic Jean Ricardou has pointed out, the writing of adventure is paralleled by the adventure of writing. In Prochain épisode and Don Quichotte de la démanche the reader witnesses a sort of short circuit between the levels of the story or an interference between the storyteller and the story told.
The autobiographical form, which is most prevalent in the Québec novel, favours this interchange between the story being narrated and the circumstance in which it is narrated. This game of cross-references, even as it destroys the traditional impression of verisimilitude, creates a new effect: that of a writer writing his story within the context of a history that is beyond his control but in which he is necessarily involved.
In an even more radical fashion, a few writers, such as Nicole BROSSARD in Un livre (1970), Sold Out (1973) and French Kiss (1974), have advocated "completely getting rid of the plot" and dispensing with all logic in the narrative. Here the traditional narration is replaced by a series of fragmented, often autobiographical texts arranged in symbolic order; both because of their expressive qualities and their layout, such texts tend to resemble poetic discourse more than traditional prose. This new "textuality," a blend of theory and fiction, was taken up with particular enthusiasm by the feminist writers who used it both as a trademark and as an area in which they could wage war on "patriarchal" language.
Since the publication of L'Euguélionne (1976) by Louky Bersianik, the new women's writing has made constant gains in strength and importance. By liberating the novel from its conventional structures, this feminist contribution has brought about a new brand of writing and a new way of expressing the feminine, as is apparent, for example, in La Mère des herbes (1980) by Jovette MARCHESSAULT, Lueur (1979) by Madeleine Gagnon and La Vie en prose (1980) by Yolande Villemaire. Several women writers express a desire for a new language that can be reconciled with women's "otherness." In Nous parlerons comme on écrit (1982), France Théoret clearly shows the determination to "denaturalize" language and culture through the exercise of writing. Such an undertaking is based on a demanding literary ethic that emphasizes the modernist precept of transforming our relationship to language as a means of thoroughly transforming reality itself.
Among the older, more traditional writers, Gabrielle Roy, Anne Hébert and Yves Thériault, all of whom began their writing careers during WWII, continued publishing in the 1960s and 1970s. With La Route d'Altamont (1966) and Ces enfants de ma vie (1977), Roy presents highly personal stories that are evocative of her life in Manitoba, whereas Hébert continues her exploration of the tormented, extreme world of guilt and passion in 3 novels with historical settings, KAMOURASKA (1970), Les Enfants du sabbat (1975) and Les Fous de bassan (1982), as well as a supernatural short story entitled Héloïse (1980). Thériault, meanwhile, followed his existing series of Inuit and Amerindian stories with Ashini (1960), Tayaout, fils d'Agaguk (1969), Agoak, l'héritage d'Agaguk (1975) and La Quête de l'ourse (1980).
During the 1970s writers such as Claude Jasmin and André Major moved away from novels of protest to delve more deeply into introspection. Major produced a trilogy, L'Épouvantail (1974), L'Épidémie (1975) and Les Rescapés (1976), in which the characters observe themselves and their lives in the little world of Saint Emmanuel. The main events in the story are almost always told retrospectively, with the remoteness of hindsight, and the distance between past and present seems to condemn the characters to perpetual remembrance. The displacement between the hero's life and his acute awareness of it not only coincides with the narrative process but also confines the character to solitary dreaming. Excluded from direct action, the character is left with no immediate grasp of reality. Rather than acting, he is acted upon; rather than being shown in acting, he is shown dreaming about the things he has done.
Similarly impotent characters, imprisoned in their past, appear in Hébert's Kamouraska, Langevin's L'Élan d'Amérique and Beaulieu's Un Rêve québécois (1972). The narrative juxtaposes a series of retrospections representing the discontinuous flow of memory in an alienated individual who has stopped evolving. Rebellion has given way to dumbfounded amazement in a character dazed by the trauma of unavoidable events. (This kind of stunned reaction is not unrelated to the moral depression affecting many writers after the imposition of the WAR MEASURES ACT in 1970.) For Jasmin too, the "cycle of violence" gave way to what the author himself called the "cycle of memories," in which he recalls the happy childhood and adolescence he spent in his family surroundings: La Petite Patrie (1972), Pointe-Calumet Boogie-Woogie (1973), Sainte-Adèle-la-vaisselle (1974) and La Sablière (1979).
Early in the 1980s it was possible to discern various tendencies indicating something of a return to established traditions in the novel. The historical novel reappeared in the series "Les Fils de la liberté" by Louis Caron: Le Canard de bois (1981) and La Corne de brume (1982). And the social chronicle was making a comeback in the form of the first volumes of the "Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal" by Michel TREMBLAY : La Grosse Femme d'à côté est enceinte (1978), Thérèse et Pierrette à l'école des Saintes-Anges (1980), La Duchesse et le roturier (1982) and Des Nouvelles d'Édouard (1985).
Authors contributing to this article:
A. Belleau, Le Romancier fictif (1979); M. Lemire, ed, Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraire du Québec (5 vols to date, 1980-88); G. Marcotte, Le Roman à l'imparfait (1976); B.Z. Shek, Social Realism in the French-Canadian Novel (1977); G. Tougas, History of French Canadian Literature (1966).