Paris Book Festival: Quebec feminists “take over”

We heard it a lot at the Paris Book Festival this weekend: feminism is one of the subjects that most interests the French in current Quebec literature. Dignitaries said this on Thursday at the opening ceremony, and festival-goers confided it to their favorite authors during the signing sessions.

With this fourth and final article on the major Parisian literary meeting where Quebec was in the spotlight, we tried to understand what explains this curiosity of the French towards our feminist literature, and how it stands out compared to that of France.

The writer and literary journalist Claudia Larochelle has been asking herself the same questions for several years. She was the perfect person to host a panel, Saturday afternoon, on the different forms that feminist literature takes here, with Martine Delvaux, Dominique Fortier and Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay.

” You are cash »

In an interview, she explains that she found part of the answer by discussing with a French colleague who told her: “you are cash, Quebecers.” “I immediately understood what she meant. I think that we have no filter in relation to the battles that remain to be fought at home and that we avoid a certain European formalism” which can sometimes harm the force of the political statement.

“Despite everything, so many French women, like Neige Sinno, have a lot of courage,” continues the journalist. Especially since others, like Annie Ernaux or Christine Angot, cleared the ground before them. But today, Quebecers are taking over. »

In fact, in a context where exchanges between Quebec and France are intensifying and where France is shaken by a new #metoo wave, the abundant Quebec feminist literature is experiencing unprecedented success across the Atlantic.

E as a writer

Martine Delvaux perhaps embodies this phenomenon better than anyone. “A priori, arriving in France and starting to get published is not easy,” says the essayist and professor of literature at UQAM. The market is very competitive. But I came in with four books, and I would say I managed to carve out a niche for myself. The themes I address are affecting more and more people, especially young people aged 20 to 30. »

“Even today,” she adds, “French women don’t know us very well. However, Quebec has been at the forefront of feminist thought. On the issue of inclusive language, the feminization of titles has always been obvious to us. I grew up using the word “writer”, rather than waiting for the French Academy to allow me to say “autrice”.”

It is in part on this word, “writer”, that Martine Delvaux’s text in the Liberation of writersa special section of the French daily Release made up of carte blanche to authors who gave pride of place to Quebec during the Festival. “I don’t hear the universal in the word “writer”, I hear the singular,” she wrote. […] The very Quebecois little E gives me access to a different universal. »

And this “universal”, the one that our writers make possible, comes in several ways. Both the more militant texts of Martine Delvaux and the literary essays of Dominique Fortier or the poetry and autofiction of Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay bear witness to a feminist gaze, a female gauze innovative.

“Stronger words”

Innovation is what unites feminist writers, according to Martine Delvaux. “All over the world, genres are being broken – social and literary. In Quebec, our innovation translates into poetic activism, by a radical aestheticization of political thought. »

In other words, new forms of feminist writing — in Quebec perhaps more than elsewhere — are intrinsically political. Martine Delvaux, for example, writes “in fragments”, and this is no coincidence. “The very practice of the fragment is feminist, because it breaks the teleological narrative and the story of the classic male hero. She also reports on the lives of women. I once read a poet who said: “I write poems, because I don’t have time to do otherwise, I take care of the children and I work”. The fragment is the materialization of our life. »

Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay, who was inspired by her own gender transition to write The daughter of herself, also sees his style as unbreakable from his political point of view. “On the one hand, I wanted to avoid a didactics of transition, to accustom people to this reality. At the same time, because my existence is political, because claiming it in the public space remains dangerous, I used stronger words. I needed to speak my truth. »

Little by little, in France as in Quebec, her truth resonates, because she first dared to write it. “There is still a long way to go. When I release a book, we still focus a lot on the trans “phenomenon” — in quotes. But I think we can stop talking about “trans literature” and consider what I do as just literature. This is also feminism. »

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