Le Survenant/The Outlander
Le Survenant is a novel by Germaine Guèvremont written in 1945 in the tradition of the roman du terroir (novel about the land).
Germaine Guèvremont's Le Survenant, a classic in Québec literature, has inspired not only a radio serial and a television series, but has twice been seen on the big screen: in 1957 and again in 2005. The novel was the first in Guèvremont's proposed trilogy, followed by Marie-Didace in 1947.
Guèvremont has the action in the novel take place in Chenal du Moine, a small hamlet not far from Sorel (Que), which she knew well through her in-laws who originated from that region.
A stranger from parts unknown arrives one day at the Beauchemin home asking for shelter and lodging for the night. Turning out to be a good worker the father, Didace, offers to keep him on for the winter with various odd jobs. A neighbour with a disability and suffering from a slight limp becomes enamoured with this charming man and his great love of freedom. He is nicknamed the "outlander" and "the great god of the roads," as he continually refuses to give his real name. Around what might be only a commonplace love story, revolve the people of the village.
The small rural community is completely disrupted by this stranger, so appealing with his vigour, his adventures and his life as a globe-trotter. A conflict arises between the local inhabitants' rhythm of life regulated by the seasons and the stranger's freedom and worldliness. Will the "outlander" sacrifice the call of the road and the wide world to Angélina's unconditional love and Didace's friendship? His departure, as unexpected and brusque as his arrival, breaks several hearts.
Although it is above all a great story of love and freedom, this novel uses exceptional description to portray the customs of the time. It also tells about values of the period that contrast surprisingly with those of its main character enamoured with freedom and adventure who very clearly challenges the small town's materialism and parochialism.
Le Survenant owes its success to three principal elements: the reality of its characters whom we meet in the earliest chapters; its outstanding description of the community where the action unfolds; and finally the author's style which is sensitive, accurate and poetic.
Germaine Guèvremont began the radio adaptation of her novel in 1950. It was presented on CBF and CKVL from 1952 to 1955, and proved a big hit.
Marked by the radio success, Guèvremont adapted her work for television. She composed a trilogy that was on the air for 6 years as Le Survenant (1954-1957, 1959-1960), Au Chenal du Moine (1957-1958) and Marie-Didace (1958-1959). Jean Coutu played the principal role of the celebrated adventurer.
On the big screen
The first film version of Guèvremont's Le Survenant, with Jean Coutu again assuming the title role, appeared in 1957. Then, in 2005, Érik Canuel decided to remake the story on the big screen, wanting to reference the television series that had spanned 138 episodes. Jean-Nicolas Verreault portrayed a "new" Survenant.
Prizes and awards
Despite its lukewarm welcome in Québec, Le Survenant's appearance in France won Guèvremont the Prix David and the Prix Sully-Olivier de Serres from the l'Académie française in 1946. In 1947, she received the Medal from the Académie des lettres du Québec. For its English translation (by Eric Sutton) Le Survenant and its sequel Marie-Didace, won the Governor General's award in 1950. This translation was published simultaneously in London, New-York, and Toronto; the English and American versions (Monk's Reach and The Outlander respectively) group the two novels Le Survenant and Marie- Didace together in one volume.
Guèvremont passed away in August 1968, but before her death she submitted a copy of the 1966 version of her novel to the publisher Fides, that she had previously corrected by hand. Besides the texts of Le Survenant and Marie-Didace, it encompasses biographical overviews and various sketches about the novel's compositional process. Further, each novel was followed by notes on the language, a glossary and an extensive bibliography.
Essential reading, Le Survenant has hence been considered as the last and greatest of the Québécois romans du terroir.