The Art and Genius of Anne Hébert: Essays on Her Works: Night and the Day Are One

By Janis L. Pallister | Go to book overview

Foreword

Novelist, poet, dramatist, and short-story writer, Anne Hébert is a major literary figure of the twentieth century. One of Québec's most celebrated authors, she won many national and international literary prizes including France's prestigious Prix Fémina. For more than fifty years, she had an enviable reputation in Québec: admired by writers, esteemed by critics, and widely read by the general public. Her novel Kamouraska and its film version, produced by Claude Jutra, became canonic works that inspired visual artists, notably the renowned painter Jean-Paul Lemieux. As for Hébert's strong international reputation, it was facilitated by the translation of her work in many different languages. Kamouraska, for example, her best-known novel, was translated into thirteen languages.

Not surprisingly, Hébert's oeuvre has generated an astounding body of literary criticism in North America and elsewhere in the world. Some twenty books, hundreds of articles, and several bibliographies, to say nothing of thousands of book reviews, bear witness to the immense appeal of her writing.

The resounding success of Hébert's creative work over five decades can be attributed to three key factors. First and foremost, she is a voice speaking about Québec—about its landscape, its history, and its mythology. The novels that best recreate a Québécois geographical perspective are Kamouraska and Le Premier Jardin. Set in the town of Sorel, in the village of Kamouraska, and in the city of Québec, Kamouraska gives a poetic representation of Québec's rural and urban landscape and haunting descriptions of bitter winter settings where passion leads to death. In Le Premier Jardin, the representation of space acquires a historical dimension. The frequent repetition of the names of streets in the city of Québec (la Grande-Allée, la rue Sainte-Anne, etc.), and the descriptions of the Plains of Abraham, the St. Lawrence River, and the old city inscribe the characters' search for identity within a larger historical and sociocultural perspective. Yet it is not so much the geographical landscape as a Québec mythology that characterizes Hébert's writing. Be it the explicit or implicit

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