— Boy with Bread, by Ozias Leduc (8 October 1864 – 16 June 1955)
I believe this is the complete list of posts on regionalism, “roman de la terre,” “roman du terroir” I have written so far. They are at times repetitive because I do not know whether or not someone has read earlier posts. Maria Chapdelaine was written by Louis Hémon, a Frenchman, or an outsider. However, it is the one novel interested persons should read. Menaud, maître-draveur (a draveur is a river driver taking lumber logs to their destination) is a very poetical novel.
Louis Hémon, the author of Maria Chapdelaine, sees Quebec as eternal. Such hope is not expressed by Félix-Antoine Savard whose 1937 novel, Menaud, maître-draveur, is embedded in Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine. Foreigners have come…
As you will notice, I did try to give more descriptive titles to older posts, but failed miserably. Fortunately, my cat said: enough! He’s in charge, so what could I do. Lists were my solution.
This is an updated list of my posts on Quebec. I am now preparing a post on Trente Arpents (Thirty Acres), a novel published in 1938 by Ringuet. The literature that follows Trente Arpents is about life in cities or small towns. Trente Arpentsreminds me of a typical Balzacnovel: the rise and fall of… Euchariste Moisan inherits thirty acres, marries, raises a family, but there is a sudden dégringolade.Everything goes wrong…
Village in Quebec by Marc-Aurèle Fortin, 1926
A Rainy Road by Marc-Aurèle Fortin, c. 1925-1928 (National Gallery of Canada)
Today, I will start and perhaps finish writing about our last Regionalist Novel in Quebec: Ringuet‘s Trente Arpents. If you are interested in French-Canadian literature and use my posts as further information on both Canadian literature and history, you may wish to keep the list below. There are other romans de la terre or romans du terroir, or novels of the land (regionalism), but the works listed below are fine representatives of this school, and some are classics. The theme underlying these novels is survival, as in Margaret Atwood‘sSurvival.
Classification: The Canadien runs out of Land
I do not want to put these novels into little boxes, but a moderate degree of classification is necessary. Maria Chapdelaine,by Louis-Hémon, a Frenchman, tells the entire story. However, it does not convey the despair of those French-Canadians who had to leave Canada because they the thirty acres allotted their ancestors in the seventeenth century had shrunk. The exodus was a tragic and quasi-genocidal episode. Quebec could not afford to lose close to a million inhabitants.
1.In La Terre paternelle, French-Canadians are told that it is better to stay on the land. The same advice is given in Charles Guérin,were it not that Charles Guérin,Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau‘s novel, also brings up the thorny matter of the lack of professions available to French-Canadians living in Quebec.
2. Un Homme et son péché (Les Belles histoires des pays d’en haut), by Claude-Henri Grignon, is about a séraphin, a miser. But it features real-life who advocate colonisation:faire de la terre (making land). “Notre culture sera paysanne… ”supports that ideology.
1. InMenaud, maître-draveur, Félix-Antoine Savard‘s novel, no explicit ideology is expressed, but Englishmen will be renting the mountain so they can harvest its riches. Menaud feels dépossédé (disowned). A French-Canadian no longer “tied” (lié) to the land, le Délié, will be pocketing the rental money. Savard’s novel is a masterpiece. It is a poetical, evocative, and “green” novel. Do not abuse nature.
2.Le Survenant (and its sequel: Marie-Didace),Germaine Guèvremont‘s novel is also very poetical. It has a bucolic and, at times, spell-binding quality. The land is rich and it still feeds French-Canadians. In The Outlander (Le Survenant), the central character, is both liked and feared.
Patrie Littéraire (after Lord Durham’s Report)
La Terre paternelle and Charles Guérin are Patrie littéraire novels. They were written in the wake of Lord Durham’s report, who described French-Canadians as having no history or literature.
Radio and Television serials
Un Homme et son péché*(Radio and TV) and Le Survenant* (TV) were serialized and extremely popular.
Given the more intimiste and poetical quality of her novels, Germaine Guèvremont’s (born Grignon) Le Survenant, published in 1945 and its sequel, Marie-Didace (1947), Germaine’s television series could not be as popular as Un Homme et son péché, Les Belles Histoires des pays d’en haut, or Séraphin: Heart of Stone, the title of the 2002 movie’s based on Un Homme et son péché. Le Survenant was nevertheless an extremely successful television series.
The 138 30-minute televised episodes ran from 30 November 1954 to 30 June 1959 on Télévision de Radio-Canada. We rushed to the living-room the moment we heard its theme: Greensleeves. In 1957-1958, it was presented under a different title, Au Chenal du Moine. Its sequel, Marie-Didace, ran from 25 September 1958 to 25 June 1959 32 60 minute episodes.
Germaine Guèvremont: the author
Le Survenant, 1945
sequel: Marie-Didace, 1947
not quite a roman du terroir, roman de la terre, regionalism (mostly synonyms)
Eric Sutton, translator (The Monk’s Reach) London, New York & Toronto
also translated as The Outlander, a combination of Le Survenant and Marie-Didace in the United States
a popular television serial (1954 – 1959)
a film adaptation: Éric Canuel‘s Le Survenant (2005) FR
Germaine Guèvremont’s Le Survenant, 1945
It is possible to see glimpses of Le Survenant as a television serial on a Cinéma québécois site, but the character’s accent makes it difficult to understand the words and the television clips are very old. A little updating would benefit the site, but I would nevertheless recommend it as well as a Télé-Tagand the IMBd site. In 2005, the novel was made into a movie, not a great movie, no more than Séraphin: Heart of Stone, but a respectable movie.
On a fall day, a man knocks on Didace Beauchemin’s door. No one knows anything about him and he does not seem to remember his own past. We suspect, however, that he was brought up in an anglophone or bilingual milieu. He often says “Nevermind” (spelled differently) and he is obviously a well-educated “god-of-the-roads” (grand-dieu-des-routes).
When he arrives, unexpectedly, at Didace’s house, le survenant is hungry and asks to join the family at the dinner-table. Later, he explains that he will earn his keep by working for Didace who is a well-to-do, solid, and very likable “cultivateur” (the renamed habitant). Didace has a son, the rather limp Amable, and a daughter-in-law, Alphonsine, both of whom live upstairs in Didace’s large house. They live upstairs. They have no children. So Didace is disappointed. How will there be continuité, a concern for French Canadians. He would therefore like le survenant to be his son.
Jean Coutu, as Le Survenant
Angélina Desmarais, who limps a little and keeps turning down potential husbands, falls in love with le survenant. The feeling is mutual, but Angélina knows that he will leave. She has no illusion. However, le survenant is rejected by many of the inhabitants of le Chenal-du-Moine. He is not one of theirs.
A year after his arrival, le survenant leaves, without saying good-bye, not even to Angélina.
A Discovery:The Outlander’s identity
However, going through old issues of Le Soleil, Quebec City’s main newspaper, le curé, the parish priest, finds a note. The Espéry de Lignères family members are looking for a relative: Malcolm Petit de Lignères or Marc Delignières, as he had transformed his name. Malcolm or Marc was brought up by a great-grandfather, Malcolm McDowey and disappeared when studying Law at McGill University. He is heir to a fortune.
Guèvremont does not take us further. At any rate, Didace wants to speak to the curé about his plans to marry an Acadian woman who will bear him a fine daughter: Marie-Didace.
Le Survenant has appeal as a suspense story. We keep going from chapter to chapter and from episode to episode wondering who he is.
Moreover, the novel opposes a nomadic individual and sedentary ones. That creates tension. French Canada had voyageurs and coureurs des bois and it had farmers. In Louis Hémon‘s Maria Chapdelaine, François Paradis is nomadic as opposed to Eutrope Gagnon, a farmer.
The inhabitants of Le Chenal du Moine are a closely knit society, almost impenetrable, which also creates tension. What if le survenant were an Englishman? At that time, there still was motivation, on the part of certain officials, to assimilate French-speaking Canadians.[i]
Finally, as a remembrance of times past, the novel exudes nostalgia. The action takes place in 1910 when French-speaking Canadians were about to experience the beginning of their industrial revolution. Actually, it did not happen until the 1960s.
Le Survenant is a Proustian novel, a remembrance of things past. We are in a small village, le Chenal du Moine, near Sorel, now Sorel-Tracy and Guèvremont makes us hear the birds and she takes us down the river in a row-boat: no motor! Her characters speak the French they brought to New France, they gather in huge kitchens, close to their cast iron stove. You should have seen my grandmother’s, not to mention her house.
A Roman de la Terre
Le Survenantis considered a roman de la terre, but it is not Claude-Henri Grignon‘s Un Homme et son péché, featuring real-life characters advocating colonisation. Moreover if the Beauchemin family members are “crushed, never to rise again” Britannica, quoted below), it is not so much that they are running out of land. It is, quite simply that they are entering a new world, but Guèvremont remembers.
Allow me to quote The Encyclopædia Britannica’s entry on Germaine Guèvremont.
“Germaine Guèvremont, née Marianne-Germaine Grignon (born Apr. 16, 1893, Saint-Jérôme, Que., Can.—died Aug. 21, 1968, Montreal), was a French-Canadian novelist who skillfully recreated the enclosed world of the Quebec peasant family.
Grignon, educated in Quebec and at Loretto Abbey, Toronto, married Hyacinthe Guèvremont, a Sorel, Que., druggist; they had a son and three daughters. She worked on Le Courrier de Sorel and as correspondent for the Montreal Gazette before moving to Montreal in 1935. In Montreal, Guèvremont contributed sketches of rural life to the monthly magazine Paysana. En Pleine Terre (1942), a collection of her realistic stories of rural French Canada, was followed by the related novels Le Survenant (1945), which inspired a French-Canadian television series, and its sequel, Marie-Didace (1947). The two novels show a family crushed, never to rise again, after a season of hope. The two novels were translated and combined as The Outlander (1950) in the United States and Canada and as Monk’s Reach (1950) in the United Kingdom.”[ii]
In the article I posted on 16 June 2012, I stated that Claude-Henri Grignon’s Un Homme et son péché was not altogether a roman de la terre, or novel of the land. In this regard, I must be more specific.
To make my text a little clearer, I have added a sentence underscoring the presence in Grignon’s novel of real-life characters such as François-Xavier-Antoine Labelle (24 November 1833 – 4 January 1891) le curé Labelle and Arthur Buies. Le curé Labelle and Arthur Buies were advocates of colonisation, making land (faire de la terre), the patriotic choice. Claude-Henri Grignon would not have inserted these characters in his novel for decorative purposes.
You are already familiar with this story. Québécois had run out of land to cultivate. By the middle of the 19th century, the thirty acres of land allotted them in the seventeenth century, when the SEIGNEURIAL system was put into place (1627), could no longer be divided and French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec were not ready to move to cities as they had not been raised to be merchants and industrialists.
We know that the land was shrinking, but compounding the problem was the lack of professions. In Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau‘s Charles Guérin, upon completion of their études classiques taught in a Petit Séminaire, a private institution,and the one course of studies allowing admission to a university , Charles and his brother Pierre realized that the only professions French-Canadians could enter were the priesthood, law and medicine. French-speaking Quebecers could also be teachers, which was the preserve of religious orders.
Containing the « exode »
Consequently, not only were Québécois cultivateurs increasingly landless, but lawyers were also facing unemployment. Therefore, preventing French-speaking Canadians from moving to the New England states was well-nigh impossible. There were factories in the Eastern Townships, an area settled by United Empire Loyalists, but by and large Quebec had very few factories.
As for going north to “make land” (colonisation), it made sense. However, just how much land could one make? Furthermore, just how many French Canadians wanted to be like Samuel Chapdelaine?
Grignon’s letter to André Laurendeau
Claude-Henri Grignon had the highest regard for the land: le sol. In a public letter[ii] to Joseph-Edmond-André Laurendeau (21 March 1912 in Montreal – 1st June 1968 in Ottawa), published in L’Action nationale (June 1941), Grignon wrote that if he accepted the word culture in the “broad and particular” meaning Laurendeau gave it, he believed that there was a French-Canadian culture and that it was a culture of the land, i.e. agrarian: « Notre culture sera paysanne ou ne sera pas. » (We will be farmers or we will not be [we will cease to exist]: that is our culture). My translation is not a literal translation, but it is accurate.
It should be pointed out, however, that in his letter or article, Grignon expressed reservations. He had this warning for the very prominent André Laurendeau: “But be careful, we will end up losing it in the same manner we have suffered other losses, because of our indifference, our timidity and, [let’s call a spade a spade], because of our “avachissement” (total spinelessness: we’re cows).” This is again my own accurate, but not literal translation.
Let’s continue reading:
“As I have often written, and will repeat,” writes Grignon, “our survival remains inextricably linked to the land, i.e. le sol. The word « sol » (three letters) contains the entire past, all of our traditions, our customs and values (mœurs), our faith and our language. If you take away sol from our social life, our economy, our political life, there is no French-Canadian culture.”
« Je l’ai écrit souvent et je le répète: notre survivance reste intimement liée au sol. Le mot ‹ sol › (trois lettres) contient tout le passé, toutes nos traditions, nos moeurs, notre foi et notre langue. Retranchez le sol de notre vie sociale, économique, politique et il n’est point de culture canadienne-française. » (p. 315)
A “Mystique” of the Land
Grignon goes on to write, that what French Canadians lack, and lack sorely, is a mystique [ideology] of the land. “Nothing is more durable, sturdier and healthier. There are nations of industrialists, nations of merchants, and agrarian nations.” In other words, Grignon was banking on the land: where there is land there is bread (« là où est la terre, là est le pain »). And he wrote that if anyone spoke to the contrary, he would ask that person the following question: “Why is it that our English gentlemen are rushing to purchase the land?” (for the original French, see the very end of the following quotation)
« Ce qui nous manque, ce qui fait douloureusement défaut dans les racines les plus profondes de notre peuple, c’est le sens d’une mystique véritable, d’une mystique paysanne, d’une mystique de la terre dans ce qu’elle suppose de plus durable, de plus fort, de plus sain. Il y a des peuples industriels, des peuples commerçants, des peuples agricoles. Pourquoi ne pas continuer les traditions de la vieille France par un attachement plus intime à la terre qui demeure selon les économistes les plus avertis, la seule richesse qui ne peut périr, même aux heures les plus difficiles, les plus angoissantes. Inutile de nous le cacher : là où est la terre, là est le pain. » (pp. 315-316)
« Comment se fait-il qu’au moment où j’écris ces lignes, messieurs les Anglais, gens pratiques, par excellence, se ruent versnos terres et s’agitent de toutes façons pour s’en procurer? » (p. 316)
The Great Depression
We must take into account that Grignon wrote the above article, in 1941, as North America was recovering from the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, the only asset that remained valuable was land. There is something artificial about money, but land is realestate, including the small city lot on which your house is located, if you have a house. According to Grignon, the English knew this, but the French-speaking Québécois did not.
Grignon was both right and wrong. Of course, one holds on to the land, but Quebec also needed its merchants, its industrialists, its engineers, its architects, its economists.
Moreover, Grignon stringed together land, language and religion. For him, the three were inseparable. In this regard, I believe Grignon faced an obstacle, at least where French Canadians living outside Quebec were concerned. Outside Quebec, there was a separation of Church and State. A Catholic school was a private school and that was not about to change.
I will close by repeating that although Un Homme et son péché is not a mainstream roman du terroir, or novel of the land. It features three real-life characters who were advocates of colonisation. But we have now seen that Claude-Henri Grignon himself was a proponent of an economic system based on agriculture. He realized that land was “real” estate.
However, those who went to the United States did so because they had to put bread on the table that very day. Where food is concerned, one does not have the luxury to wait. They were not traitors. They were victims.
Didn’t anyone have the foresight to prevent the worst tragedy ever to befall French-speaking Canadians? It seems to me that no one was minding the store.
There are fine novels telling about life in mostly rural Canada. These could be included in a our series on Regionalism in Quebec Fiction. Among such works, two stand out. The first is Claude-Henri Grignon‘s (8 July 1894 – 3 April 1976) Un homme et son péché, and the second, Le Survenant, published in 1945 by Grignon’s cousin Germaine Guèvremont (16 April 1893 – 21 August 1968). It had a sequel: Marie-Didace.
But we are no longer in Charlevoix. We have moved to Saint-Adèle in the Laurentian mountains, north of Montreal. It is pictured above by Dutch-Canadian artist Cornelius Krieghoff.
Séraphin Poudrier, the miser Donalda Laloge, his wife Alexis Labranche, Donalda’s true love
Séraphin Poudrier, the miser, mistreats his beautiful wife, Donalda, and lets her die because calling in a doctor would cost money. The lovely Donalda dies of pneumonia. As for Séraphin, he also meets a sorry end. He lets himself die holding on to his money as a fire burns down his house while everyone is attending Donalda’s funeral. Alexis Labranche, Donalda’s true love, tries to save him repeatedly, but Séraphin will not be separated from his money. After his death, villagers find money inside his clutched hand.
If you click on Les Belles Histoires des pays d’en haut, you will note, among other things, that Un Homme et son péché was a 495-episode television series, a téléroman, that featured not only fictional characters, but also real-life celebrities.
One of these is Antoine Labelle, le curé Labelle, who directed unemployed French-Canadians/Québécois, mostly farmers out of a land, to settle North.
Another is Honoré Mercier (15 October 1840 – 30 October 1894) the 9th Premier of Quebec (Parti Libéral; in office from 1887-1891).
Finally, the cast also included Arthur Buies, a journalist, as were Grignon and Guèvremont, an advocate of colonization and the first French-Canadian/Quebec writer to express well-articulated anticlerical views.
These three characters, Labelle and Buies in particular, are known to everyone and, in Quebec, a miser is calledun séraphin.
Allow me to quote Arthur Buies:
The clergy are everywhere, they preside over everything, and no one can think or wish anything except what they allow. . . they seek not the triumph of religion, but the triumph of their own dominance.[i]
Claude-Henri Grignon’sUn Homme et son péché (1933) can be included in our list of regionalist novels but only as a borderline example of le roman du terroir. Claude-Henri Grignon was a journalist, known for his “trenchant satire of the government of Maurice Duplessis.” (Wikipedia) Duplessis was the 16th and profoundly corrupt Premier of the Province of Quebec (in office from 1936 to 1939, and from 1944 to 1959).
However, it is a novel of the land inasmuch as le curé Labelle and Arthur Buies are advocates of colonisation.
Grignon, who became a member of the Royal Society of Canada, was not just another journalist no more than he was just another novelist. He was an exceptionally keen observer of Quebec society and provided an excellent chronicle of “la belle province.” Un Homme et son péché is a satire of rural life in Quebec that mesmerized both readers and television viewers. As I noted above, the televised series was preceded by a radio-drama.
Un Homme et son péché has been adapted into at least two films. The second film dates back to 2002. It is entitled Séraphin: un Homme et son péché and it has an English-language version: Heart of Stone (trailer), a third film (?). As for the novel, Un Homme et son péché, it was translated into English as The Woman and the Miser (1978).
Next, we will look a Grignon’s cousin’s Le Survenant (The Wanderer) and Marie-Didace, Le Survenant‘s sequel which aired briefly in the late 1950s. Guèvremont’s novels are closer to the roman de la terre, or roman du terroir, the novel of the land, or regionalist, than Grignon’s Un Homme et son péché. Yet, Germaine Guèvremont wrote Le Survenant in 1945, after Ringuet or Philippe Panneton’s Trente Arpents (1938).