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Marie-Claire Blais

  Marie-Claire Blais, 1998

A leading light in Quebec and Canadian literature, Marie-Claire Blais has been a writer for over forty years. Her work, which includes more than twenty novels, five plays and collections of poetry, short fiction and newspaper articles, has been translated into many languages, including Chinese. Two of her novels have been adapted for cinema. Une saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel [A Season in the Life of Emmanuel], directed by Claude Weisz in 1968, won the Directors' Fortnight prize. Le Sourd dans la ville [Deaf to the City], directed by Michelle Dansereau in 1987, won the Mostra award at the Venice Film Festival.

Blais has received numerous literary awards in Quebec, Canada and abroad -- the Prix France-Canada in 1965; the Prix Médicis in 1966; the Governor General's Award in 1968, 1979 and 1996; the Prix Athanase-David in 1982; the Prix de l'Académie française in 1982; the Prix Ludger-Duvernay in 1988; the Prix d'Italie in 1999; the W. O. Mitchell Literary Prize in 2000 and the Prix Prince Pierre de Monaco in 2002. She was also elected to the Académie royale de langue et literature française de Belgique in 1992. These awards and distinctions make Marie-Claire Blais one of the greatest ambassadors of Canadian literature.

Blais was born in Québec City in 1939. She came from a humble background and had to leave school to earn her living. While working, Blais took courses at Laval University, and it was there that she met Jeanne Lapointe and Father Georges Lévesque, who encouraged her to write and, in 1959, to publish her first novel, La Belle Bête [Mad Shadows].

With the support of the eminent American critic Edmund Wilson, Blais won two Guggenheim Fellowships. In 1963, she moved to the United States, first to Cambridge and later to Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, where she wrote her most celebrated novel, Une saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel [A Season in the Life of Emmanuel]. This novel won Blais the Prix Médicis and the Prix France-Québec in 1965. It was also in Wellfleet that Blais wrote Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange [The Manuscripts of Pauline Archange] (1968-1970).

In 1975, after a two-year stay in Brittany, Blais moved back to Quebec. Montréal was the background for her novels Le Sourd dans la ville [Deaf to the City] (1979) and Visions d'Anna (1982). In 1993, she published Parcours d'un écrivain : Notes américaines [American Notebooks: A Writer's Journey], a collection of articles written for Le Devoir. For some twenty years, Blais has divided her time between the Eastern Townships of Quebec and Key West, Florida. This American city is the setting for her most recent works, the play L'Île (1988) and the novels Soifs (1996) and Dans la foudre et la lumière (2001).

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