The last voyage of the lady in black

Her shyness was revealed first in her forelock which covered part of her face, as if she had wanted to step aside, to remain in her bubble, far from the threats of the outside world. I seem to have always known Marie-Claire Blais, her frail figure, the harshness of her prose. His novels were in the family library and I really enjoyed them. Then I followed his work, even in its most obscure folds.

A season in the life of Emmanuel, with his youthful fury, had splashed our letters before winning him the Medici Prize in 1966. At the very beginning of the Quiet Revolution, Marie-Claire Blais threw angry words of liberation on a society in the process of shaking its chains. For a long time his anti-conformist cry from the heart was taught in schools. Today…

Wednesday morning, I heard a radio host stumble over her name, before adding in substance: “My colleague says she was one of the greatest Quebec writers of the XXth century.e et du XXIe century ”. He obviously did not know her. We are few things … Even this lady in black who rose to the stars by embracing the thousand torments of the human condition.

At 82, in Key West, a Florida haunt where she was next to her friend Michel Tremblay, this secret woman but steeped in the world, this great activist for LGBT rights and harmed minorities, this champion of the Francophonie, this flayed alive, this enigma is extinguished. The writer behind more than thirty novels, including ten from the powerful Soifs series, the one we encountered in Montreal and Paris, and who called out to you in a soft voice: “I don’t like to define myself in front of others. Reality is so changeable ”has faded from the landscape. We feel very impoverished.

At 20, this girl who loved the shade, had been propelled into the spotlight in the middle of the Great Darkness of 1959 with The beautiful beast, first novel woven of hatred and madness, which scratched the institution of the family and refused to kneel before a God. Scandal in the house! Beauty and monstrosity mingled there. “The beautiful is only the beginning of the terrible”, wrote Rainer Maria Rilke. It seemed to prefigure his work.

Marie-Claire Blais soon sought to blend into other settings, to escape the looks that burned her fierce interiority. She had soles of the wind, landed in the United States, for a time in France, returned to Quebec in the Eastern Townships or to Montreal, quickly appeared, soon disappeared. Internationalist but anchored in her native soil, the advances and deviations of which she will have observed for so many decades. “We absolutely have to keep an openness to other peoples. Regionalism closed in on itself scares me, ”she told me. Marie-Claire Blais knew Duplessism, you see.

This girl from Quebec, born in 1939 into a working-class family, had a precocious vocation. From the age of 12, 13, she sent her poetry collections to publishers. “Who refused them,” she told me. Marie-Claire Blais had to leave school, to try out work at the factory, but wrote relentlessly. Since Father Georges-Henri Lévesque, patron and founder of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Laval University, had encouraged her to publish the Burnot de The beautiful beast, the literature of courage and conviction was his home to the end.

Short stories, novels (three adapted for the cinema), poems, plays, in 60 years, she will have dabbled in abundance in all registers. I loved the Durassian accents of his the Deaf in the city (1987), gallery of magnificent lost in a hotel at the end of the world. Perfectionist, polishing her style, soon subscribed to long sentences without punctuation or paragraphs, she will have lost breathless admirers in the fight. Nourished by her love for Proust, whose sublime she said she constantly reads Research, his prose no longer left the reader the luxury of breathing at the end of the journey, but the brave were amazed. What breadth and poetry! What unvarnished lucidity in her descriptions of the damned of the earth, with whom she espoused every war and every shipwreck! “We must bow to someone who has returned from hell,” wrote in May at the predator ball this great tragedian in 2010.

Seven years later sending back the victims and the executioners back to back, Marie-Claire Blais specified in Songs for Angel fear the day when “the machines of destruction would cover all human, spiritual or artistic development with its infernal clamor”, while art would die of it. Today, his apocalyptic fears resonate in our disoriented world, which will soon discover without its lantern Alas! where his blindness will lead him.

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