The largest literary
prize in Quebec and -- for the winning writer, at least -- the richest in Canada is
the prix Gilles-Corbeil. The winner this year is the veteran novelist Victor-Lévy
Beaulieu of Trois-Pistoles, Quebec.
Where the recently
rebranded Weston Prize is worth $60,000, and the Griffin Prize $65,000, the Émile Nelligan Foundation’s prix
Gilles-Corbeil presents the winner with $100,000.
Admittedly, that’s once every three years, not annually (as
is the case with the Weston and Griffin Prizes), but $100,000 is a very large
chunk of change for the winning writer of what is sometimes referred to as the Quebec “Nobel” prize for
is open to Canadian and (interestingly) American writers working in French, but
the winners to date have all been Quebecers: Réjean Ducharme, Anne Hébert,
Jacques Brault, Paul-Marie Lapointe, Fernand Ouellette, Marie-Claire Blais and
Jacques Poulin and now VLB.
and former head of the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec Lise
Bissonette chaired the jury, which consisted of author and writers’ union UNEQ
past-president Stanley Péan and academics Martine-Emmanuelle Lapointe,
François Paré, and Lucie Robert.
In its report on the prize, Radio-Canada refers
briefly to VLB’s 2008
threat to burn his own books. That was to protest against growing bilingualism
and multilingualism in Quebec and against the insufficient ardor of the
mentioned in the press accounts of the prize that I have read this week is that
VLB launched a public attack that same year on Governor General Michaëlle Jean,
whom he dubbed La Reine-Nègre or the Negro Queen.
Rosiers, winner of the prix Athanase-David (on this site) was one of
Jean’s most eloquent defenders at that time.
The fact that VLB and Des Rosiers are winners of Quebec’s two top literary
prizes this year will inadvertently give some indication of political differences within
Le Devoir, Bissonnette herself passes
lightly over the political and controversial aspects of Beaulieu’s career, properly
focusing her remarks on VLB the writer, VLB the reader – he has devoted
thousands of pages to such writers as Hugo, Joyce, Melville, Tolstoy, Voltaire,
Foucault, Ferron, Thériault, Kerouac, and soon Nietzsche -- and VLB the publisher
first of Éditions VLB and more recently of Éditions Trois-Pistoles.
Now 67, VLB is in the process of reissuing his complete
works. His plan is to publish 666 copies of each work, seeing that as the
number of real readers he can count on in Quebec.
© Linda Leith 2011
[Posted on the Globe Books "In Other Words" site November 11, 2011.]