Gabrielle Roy, C.C., F.R.S.C.

(1909-1983)

Gabrielle Roy, a famous French-Canadian writer, was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, in 1909, to a French-speaking family. She studied at the Académie Saint-Joseph, in Saint-Boniface, and at the Winnipeg Normal Institute. She taught for 12 years, first in isolated villages and then in St. Boniface, where she also performed in the theater with the Cercle Molière troupe.

In 1937, she left for Europe (France and England, 1937-1939), where she studied drama and wrote her first articles published in the French periodical “Je suis partout”. Returning to Canada in 1939, she settled in Montreal and published reports, descriptive works and essays in various newspapers and magazines: Le Jour, La Revue moderne, Le Bulletin des agriculteurs and others. Inspired by life in the working-class neighbourhood of Saint-Henri, she wrote her first novel, Bonheur d’occasion (1945). The English translation, The Tin Flute, was published in 1947. The novel was eventually translated into eighteen languages. Bonheur d’occasion won the Prix Fémina (1947) and was rated a bestseller by the Literary Guild of America in 1947. It was also in 1947 that Gabrielle Roy married Dr. Marcel Carbotte and settled in Quebec City.

Bonheur d’occasion was followed by other novels and collections of short stories and essays. Among the many distinctions and artistic awards she has received, Roy was the first Canadian to be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada (1947), and was named a Companion of the Order of Canada (1967). She was awarded the Duvernay Prize for lifetime achievement in 1956, the David Prize in 1971 and the Molson Prize in 1978. Other important works include Ces enfants de ma vie (1977), which earned her third Governor General’s Literary Award. Her autobiography, La Détresse et l’Enchantement, which recounts the first thirty years of her life (up to 1939) and her letters to her sister, Ma chère petite sœur, Lettres à Bernadette 1943-1970, were published after her death, in 1984 and 1988 respectively.

Image: 

Picture of Gabrielle Roy (1945)