Panneton, Philippe

Philippe Panneton, pen name Ringuet, physician, professor, diplomat, novelist (b at Trois-Rivières, Qué 30 Apr 1895; d at Lisbon, Portugal 28 Dec 1960). Panneton was a leading figure in French Canadian literature, thanks primarily to his novel, TRENTE ARPENTS (1938), which is considered a classic of Canadian literature. Panneton was a true man of letters and combined work as a professor at Université de Montréal with a full literary life. He wrote for many periodicals, was a founding member and chairman of the Académie canadienne-française and published 7 books, including a pastiche, a collection of short stories, and 5 novels dealing with both rural and urban history (eg, Un Monde était leur empire, 1943; Le Poids du jour, 1949).

He was acclaimed in both French and English Canada for his works, but it was primarily because of Trente Arpents that he received awards, including that of the Province of Québec, the Académie française's Prix des Vikings, and a Governor General's Award. The novel, first published in Paris, concerns the transition from agrarian to urban life in Québec. It covers the 45 years from the late 19th century to the Depression, and deals with 3 generations of peasants who exhaust themselves cultivating their 30 acres (12 ha) of land. The main character, Euchariste Moisan, prospers on the land and with maturity achieves ease and fame, but in old age he meets a series of difficulties. As a result he turns over his land to his eldest son and goes into exile in New England with a son who, like several of his brothers and sisters, has left the land for the city. The land, mother and wife, is also a hard mistress. Unyielding and unchanging, she rejects the person who cannot meet her challenge.

This was a new vision of rural life. Panneton's predecessors, except for Albert LABERGE and Claude-Henri GRIGNON, all presented idyllic and moralizing accounts of no artistic or literary dimension. This novel, the best to appear until the 1940s, was quickly translated into English and German, and after 1940 was published in both languages. Panneton became ambassador to Portugal in 1957.