Germaine Guèvremont, née Marianne-Germaine Grignon, writer (born 16 April 1893 in Saint-Jérôme, QC; died 21 August 1968 in Montréal, QC). Winner of the Governor General’s Award and a member of the Académie canadienne-francaise (now the Académie des lettres du Québec), Guèvremont’s novels are among the finest examples of the roman du terroir (novel about the land).

Early Life and Career

After studies in Sainte-Scholastique, Saint-Jérôme, Lachine and Toronto (Loretto Abbey), Guèvremont worked at the Sainte-Scholastique courthouse. In 1916, she married Hyacinthe Guèvremont, an Ottawa civil servant. In 1920, the family moved to Sorel where they lived until 1935, when they moved to Montréal. Germaine took up journalism in Sorel, writing for The Gazette, Le Courrier de Sorel (where she became editor-in-chief), Paysana and L'Oeil. In 1942, she published her first book, a collection of stories first published in Paysana called En pleine terre, and began editing her major work, Le Survenant, two chapters of which appeared in Gants du ciel in 1943.

Romans du terroir

En pleine terre introduces characters and themes that are later explored in some of Guèvremont’s better-known novels: marriage and the hardships of life in rural Québec, the death of loved ones and the comforts of religion — and always, the formidable and sometimes terrifying power of nature. Le Survenant, for which she won the prix Duvernay, prix David and prix Sully-Olivier de Serres, was published by Beauchemin (1945) and in Paris by Plon (1946). Marie-Didace, the second instalment of Le Survenant, appeared in 1947. It was a triumph, winning her election to the Académie canadienne-française (what is now the Académie des lettres du Québec) in 1948; the Governor General's Award for the English translation (The Outlander, which combined Le Survenant and Marie-Didace) in 1950; honorary doctorates; popular acclaim with radio (1952–55), television (1954–60) and film (1957) adaptations; and election to the Royal Society of Canada in 1962.

Le Survenant

Le Survenant opens in autumn when a stranger knocks at the Beauchemin family’s door asking for work. He is, it turns out, a good worker and well-travelled, but his presence unsettles life in staid Chenal du Moine, inspiring the love of haughty Angélina. In the end, however, this stranger disappears as mysteriously as he arrived. Marie-Didace picks up where Le Survenant leaves off, this time with the paterfamilias of the Beauchemin clan longing for a “true heir.” He marries an Acadian, Blanche Varieur, but the introduction of another stranger into this insular family leads todisaster. By the end of the novel, the Beauchemin family line is finished.

Legacy

Le Survenant and Marie-Didace are widely regarded as the culmination of the roman du terroir, which dominated Québec literature for a century (see Literature in French). In the midst of writing her autobiography, Guèvremont died on 21 August 1968. A remake of the 1957 film adaptation of Le Survenant was released in 2005, and directed by Érik Canuel. Guèvremont’s cousin Claude-Henri Grignon is the author of what may be Québec’s first modernist novel, Un Homme et son péché.