Savard, Félix-Antoine

Félix-Antoine Savard, priest, writer, educator (b at Québec C 31 Aug 1896; d there 24 Aug 1982). After spending his childhood and youth in the Saguenay, Savard discovered and fell in love with the Charlevoix region, which he called Québec's metaphysical county. Ordained a priest in 1922, he started teaching the humanities. He subsequently became curate of several parishes and founding curé of St-Philippe-de-Clermont. He also was active in colonizing the Abitibi region in the 1930s. During these years of pastoral work, Savard's knowledge of humanism deepened through an intensive study of Greek, Latin and French authors of the medieval and classical periods, as well as his contemporaries Mistral, Claudel and Valéry.

In 1937 MENAUD, MAITRE-DRAVEUR was published and assured Savard a place among the leading authors of his time. His novel moves like an epic poem in which symbol, image and metaphor abound; its vibrant character, a truly mythical hero, is presented against the magnificent Charlevoix landscape and the cyclical unfolding of the seasons, and his suffering and tragic end provide a grave and urgent warning to future generations.

From the 1940s Savard was closely associated with Laval. Dean of its Faculty of Arts for 7 years, he taught literature and played an important role in FOLKLORE discoveries and research. He was elected to the RSC in 1945 and to the Académie canadienne-française in 1954. A masterful and often highly controversial speaker, Savard spent most of his active retirement in his chosen region of St-Joseph-de-la-Rive, in Charlevoix. Savard devoted his life to writing. He published 3 collections, mainly composed of poetry and prose: L'Abatis (1943), Le Barachois (1959), Le Bouscueil (1972); 2 plays, La Folle (1960) and La Dalle-des-morts (1965), and narrative works in the form of short stories and parables, eg, La Minuit (1948) and Martin et le pauvre (1959). He also was the author of personal notebooks, journals and memoirs in which, while he promotes and defends keeping faith with sacred national traditions, he reveals himself to be an artist in words, a sculptor of form, always searching for new images and finding pleasure in the language.

But it is Menaud, maître-draveur, a work that took 30 years to complete, that firmly established his literary renown. It was published in 5 versions (3 of which are distinctly different). It remains a fine example of a patiently crafted, successful literary work.