The books are hardly out, the reviews hardly
in, but Quebec’s fall literary season got well under way last week with the
publication of Pierre Nepveu’s 900-page biography of
the poet and activist Gaston Miron, who was born in Ste-Agathe in the
Laurentians in 1928 and died in 1996.
What is significant about Gaston Miron: La vie d’un homme (Boréal) is not just the subject,
although it would be difficult to overstate the importance of Miron as a
literary figure in Quebec. It is the quality of the historical, cultural, political
and literary analysis Nepveu brings to bear on his subject. And, not least, it
is the fact that Nepveu is the biographer.
A distinguished poet, fiction writer and
essayist – he may be unique in having won the Governor General’s award in all
three categories – Nepveu is also one of the most respected literary scholars
in today’s Quebec. His biography, in the works for the past 10 years, is being
received with respect
if not awe.
While the Miron biography is a considerable
assessment of the one of the great figures of nationalist Quebec, the
publication this month of a new novel by Catherine
Mavrikakis is an event, too, and one of the surest signs of vitality among
a younger generation of Quebec writers.
Born in Chicago in 1961 to a French mother and
a Greek father, Mavrikakis spent her childhood in the Montreal area as well as
in France and the United States. Her novel Le
ciel de Bay City (Héliotrope) won the Grand prix du livre de Montréal in
2008 in competition with Rawi Hage, Monique Proulx, Dany Laferrière, and
[Addendum posted on September 27, 2011: Am just back tonight from the Pacific Northwest, where I took this photograph on the way into Bay City]:
Mavrikakis's new novel is Les
dernier jours de Smokey Nelson (Héliotrope).
And then there’s Montrealer Perrine Leblanc, aged 31, who is a very bright new star on the
literary horizon. Not only did she win the Grand prix du livre de Montreal for
her first novel L'homme blanc (Le Quartanier) last fall, but she
followed that up in March by winning Le Combat des livres, which is Radio-Canada’s answer to Canada Reads.
has now been picked up by none other than Gallimard for publication later this
fall as part of its famed “Collection blanche” in France and internationally.