Ferron, Jacques

Jacques Ferron, doctor, writer (b at Louiseville, Qué 20 Jan 1921; d at St-Lambert, Qué 22 Apr 1985). His father was a Liberal Party organizer, and Ferron (brother of Marcelle FERRON) was early attracted to political opposition. His earliest works, published in the late 1940s in Montréal newspapers and directed against the DUPLESSIS regime, carried the profoundly humanist and socialist stamp that helped earn him a reputation as the Voltaire of Québec letters. His commitment to socialist principles, partly owing to his first wife's affiliation with the Communist Party, was expressed in his involvement with left-wing magazines (Situations, La Revue socialiste, Parti pris) and in his political campaign as a candidate for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in the 1958 federal election. He was later approached by the Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale and was a RIN candidate in the 1966 provincial election. Meanwhile, in 1963 he and friends founded the RHINOCEROS PARTY, which turned its main weapon - irony - on the increasingly dominant power of the federal government.

Full Range of Literary Genres

A remarkable and prolific stylist, Ferron tackled the full range of literary genres. He wrote some 20 plays, none frequently performed. Some are traditional intimist works (L'Ogre, La Sortie); others are theoretical reflections on drama as a genre (Le Coeur d'une mère); some are strongly nationalistic (Les Grands Soleils, La Tête du roi). Ferron used his experience as a physician in poor neighbourhoods as subject matter for most of his stories and novels. His narrative works all denounce the social and cultural alienation of the Québecois. These works mix memories with allusions to current events, thereby creating a new fiction that is peopled by both historical characters and imaginary beings (Le Ciel de Québec, Papa Boss, Le Saint-Elias), or puts the common people at the centre of the fictional universe (Cotnoir, Les Roses sauvages, La Chaise du maréchal-Ferrant), or is autobiographical (Les Confitures de coings, L'Amélanchier).

Lucid Chronicler

An observant and lucid chronicler, Ferron demonstrated his historical knowledge in a genre he rescued from oblivion: the satirical chronicle (Historiettes, Du fond de mon arrière-cuisine, Escarmouches). He wrote more than 1000 of these pieces, in almost sloganeering style, skilfully bringing irony and sarcasm to bear on Québec's political, social and literary life. In addition to these chronicles, Ferron wrote about 200 "letters to the editor," most of them directed to the Montréal dailies Le Canada, Le Devoir and La Presse, in which he showed himself to be a critical and lucid observer of the last 40 years of Québec history. Ferron won several literary awards: the Governor General's Award in 1962 for Contes du pays incertain; the Prix France-Québec in 1972 for Les Roses sauvages; the Prix Duvernay in 1972; and the Prix David in 1977.