Marie-Claire Blais

Marie-Claire BlaisMarie-Claire Blais

NCL Biography:

[From Series Two Mad Shadows]

Marie-Claire Blaise was born the eldest of five children in Quebec City in 1939. Shy and unpopular as a child, she very early became obsessed with the desire to write. She wrote her first poem at six, her first book at fifteen and, by the time Mad Shadows appeared in 1959, when she had turned twenty, she had completed some 200 poems, four novels and twenty plays (all unpublished). But she received little encouragement. Because of financial difficulties she had to leave convent school at fifteen to become a typist and could only write at night. Also, her family objected to her work – her mother was once so horrified by one of her stories that she threw it in the fire. Finally Marie-Claire took a selection of her manuscripts to Father Levesque of Laval University. He was both astounded and impressed, but told her she must learn to discipline and simplify her style. She went home and wrote Mad Shadows (or, as it was called in French, La belle bête,) in fifteen days. Father Levesque was even more shaken when he read the manuscript, but he felt it his duty to try and get it published. He took it to the Institut Littéraire de Québec and the rest is history. La belle bête went through two editions in six weeks, and caused the greatest literary storm the Province of Quebec has ever known. Critics either adored or reviled Marie-Claire. Many tried to dismiss her as only a flash in the literary pan, but the volume of work she has produced since has made it clear that this was a completely false assumption. By 1960, La belle bête had appeared in Canada, the United States and England under the title Mad Shadows. A French edition has also been published in Paris.

Since then Miss Blais has continued to produce plays, collections of poems and novels. The same powerful themes of brooding melancholy and violence; of the lonely world of the isolated individual, have pervaded all her work. Of her novels, Tête blanche was published in 1960 and Le jour est noir in 1962. Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel appeared in 1965 and won the Prix Mèdicis in 1966. It was followed by Lèinsoumise in the same year. Her two collections of poems, Pays voilés and Existence were published in 1963 and ’64 respectively. Miss Blais now lives in the United States.

Books in the NCL:

Mad Shadows [N78]
Tête Blanche [N104]
The Manuscripts of Pauline Archange [N166]
St. Lawrence Blues [N183]
A Season in the Life of Emmanuel [–]

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