Next April, Quebec will be guest of honor at the Paris Book Festival, the most important book fair in the French-speaking world. An honor that comes at the right time, as interest in Quebec literature is experiencing a certain enthusiasm on the other side of the Atlantic following the success of the latest novels by Kevin Lambert and Éric Chacour.
“The vision of Quebec literature in France emerges. This was particularly noticeable in the last literary season. We sense a real tropism among booksellers, journalists and publishers. There is a real curiosity for a different way of telling stories,” said Paris Book Festival general director Jean-Baptiste Passé in an interview with Le Devoir.
Mr. Passé is in Montreal this week for the book fair, which opened on Wednesday at the Palais des Congrès. At his side on Thursday, Culture Minister Mathieu Lacombe and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante will confirm that Quebec will be a guest at the next Paris Book Festival, which will take place April 12-14.
This flagship event of French-language literature welcomes around 100,000 readers every year. Every year a different country is the guest of honor. For the 2024 edition, Quebec will succeed Italy. Specifically, a delegation of around thirty authors from Quebec is expected at the ephemeral Grand Palais on Champ-de-Mars, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
The last time Quebec was in the spotlight in Paris was in 1999. At that time, Dany Laferrière had just taken part in the Bouillon de Culture, the most important literary show in the Hexagon at the time.
A lot of ground has been covered since then. Dany Laferrière was the first Quebecer to be a member of the Académie française. Dominique Fortier won the 2020 Renaudot Essay Prize for Les Villes de papier. May our joy remain that Kevin Lambert, who was also part of the first selection for the prestigious Goncourt, won the Médicis Prize, one of the most important awards in the French literary world, earlier this month. Also this fall, Éric Chacour was in the running for the Femina Prize with Ce que je sais de toi, his first novel.
“We understood that contemporary literature is universal literature. It may be premature to say this for the general public, but it is certainly true for the literary world. […] When we read Éric Chacour today, we read him as such. We do not limit a Quebec author to his Quebec origins,” emphasizes Jean-Baptiste Passé.
My cabin in Canada
The general director of the Paris Book Festival does not believe that Quebec literature still suffers from snobbery in French intellectual circles. Nor is Quebec limited to a folkloric outlook, he affirms.
However, in 2022, the final selection for the Quebec-France Literary Prize caused controversy because the three nominated books were historical novels set in the New France period, had received very little attention in Quebec and had not representative of the literature were diversity of Quebec.
“If there is an image of folklore that we can still have in France, it is that of this protected territory. “Like a call to return to the land, to naturalness,” recognizes Jean-Baptiste Passé, referring to “Mes Forêts” by the Quebec poet Hélène Dorion, a collection currently being studied in French curricula.