Gabrielle Roy

Last updated
Gabrielle Roy
Gabrielle Roy 1945.jpg
Gabrielle Roy, 1945
Born(1909-03-22)March 22, 1909
Saint Boniface, Manitoba, Canada
DiedJuly 13, 1983(1983-07-13) (aged 74)
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
OccupationNovelist, teacher
Language French
Genre Canadian literature
Children's literature
Literary movementCanLit
Notable works

Gabrielle Roy CC FRSC (March 22, 1909 July 13, 1983) was a Canadian author from St. Boniface, Manitoba and one of the major figures in French Canadian literature.


Early life

Roy was born in 1909 in Saint Boniface (now part of Winnipeg), Manitoba, and was educated at the Académie Saint-Joseph. She lived on rue Deschambault, a house and neighbourhood in Saint Boniface that would later inspire one of her most famous works. The house is now a National Historic Site and museum in Winnipeg.


After training as a teacher at The Winnipeg Normal School, she taught in rural schools in Marchand and Cardinal and was then appointed to the Institut Collégial Provencher in Saint Boniface. [1]

With her savings she was able to spend some time in Europe, but was forced to return to Canada in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. She returned with some of her works near completion, but settled in Quebec to earn a living as a sketch artist while continuing to write.

Gabrielle Roy in 1945 with children from Saint-Henri, the working-class neighbourhood of Montreal. Feature. St. Henri - Gabrielle Roy and Boys of St. Henri BAnQ P48S1P11917.jpg
Gabrielle Roy in 1945 with children from Saint-Henri, the working-class neighbourhood of Montreal.

Her first novel, Bonheur d'occasion (1945), [2] gave a starkly realistic portrait of the lives of people in Saint-Henri, a working-class neighbourhood of Montreal. The novel caused many Quebeckers to take a hard look at themselves, and is regarded as the novel that helped lay the foundation for Quebec's Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. The original French version won her the prestigious Prix Femina in 1947. Published in English as The Tin Flute (1947), [3] the book won the 1947 Governor General's Award for fiction as well as the Royal Society of Canada's Lorne Pierce Medal. Distributed in the United States, where it sold more than three-quarters of a million copies, the Literary Guild of America made The Tin Flute a feature book of the month in 1947. The book garnered so much attention that Roy returned to Manitoba to escape the publicity.

There are two French versions of Bonheur d'occasion. The first was published in 1945 by Société des Éditions Pascal in two volumes. This version was translated in 1947 by Hannah Josephson, who removed several short passages from the English version. In 1965, Librairie Beauchemin published an abridged French version eliminating a number of passages. This second version was translated by Alan Brown in 1980. As a result, there has never been an unabridged version of The Tin Flute published in English.

In August 1947, she married Marcel Carbotte, a Saint Boniface doctor, and the couple set off for Europe where Carbotte studied gynecology and Roy spent her time writing.

Where Nests the Water Hen, Gabrielle Roy's second novel, is a sensitive and sympathetic tale that captures both the innocence and the vitality of a sparsely populated frontier.

Another of her novels brought additional critical acclaim. Alexandre Chenevert (1954), is a dark and emotional story that is ranked as one of the most significant works of psychological realism in the history of Canadian literature.

She is considered by many to be one of the most important Francophone writers in Canadian history and one of the most influential Canadian authors. In 1963, she was on a panel that gave the Montreal World's Fair, Expo 67, its theme: Terre des hommes or in English Man and His World. It was her suggestion to use Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1939 book title as the organizing theme. In 2016, Margaret Atwood, who had read her books as a teenager, wrote an essay about her career, and noted that her works were still more relevant than ever. [4]

Gabrielle Roy died in 1983 at the age of seventy-four. Her autobiography, La Détresse et l'enchantement, was published posthumously and translated in 1984 by Patricia Claxton, a prominent Quebec translator who is considered the primary translator of Gabrielle Roy's works from French to English. Her translation of Gabrielle Roy's autobiography, translated into English as Enchantment and Sorrow was awarded the Governor General's Award in 1987. The autobiography covers the years from Gabrielle Roy's childhood in Manitoba to the time when she settled in Quebec. The movie Tramp at the Door is dedicated to her and supposedly depicts her childhood. Patricia Claxton won her second Governor General's Award in 1999 for translating François Ricard's biography of Gabrielle Roy.

The central branch of the public library system of Quebec City, the Bibliotheque Gabrielle Roy Image-Quebec, Bibliotheque Gabrielle-Roy2.jpg
The central branch of the public library system of Quebec City, the Bibliothèque Gabrielle Roy

Awards and recognition

She won the Governor General's Award three times, the Prix David twice, the Prix Duvernay and the Molson Prize.

The National Library of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) has preserved a collection of her materials covering the years 1940 to 1983, including manuscripts, typescripts, galleys of published and unpublished works such as La Rivière sans repos, Cet été qui chantait, Un jardin au bout du monde, Ces enfants de ma vie, and La Détresse et l'enchantement, as well as business and personal correspondence, business records, and memorabilia.

Schools and a campus named in her honour

Selected writings

See also

Related Research Articles

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye was a French Canadian military officer, fur trader and explorer. In the 1730s, he and his four sons explored the area west of Lake Superior and established trading posts there. They were part of a process that added Western Canada to the original New France territory that was centred along the Saint Lawrence basin.

Université de Saint-Boniface

The Université de Saint-Boniface (USB) is a French language public university located in the Saint Boniface suburb of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. An affiliated institution of the University of Manitoba, the university offers general and specialized university degree programs as well as technical and professional training. In 2014, 1,368 regular students were enrolled. Its Continuing Education Division, which includes a language school, has also counted over 4,200 enrolments.

Saint Boniface, Winnipeg Suburb in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

St. Boniface is a city ward of Winnipeg that is the centre of much of the Franco-Manitoban community. It features such landmarks as the St. Boniface Cathedral, Boulevard Provencher, the Provencher Bridge, Esplanade Riel, St. Boniface Hospital, the Université de Saint-Boniface and the Royal Canadian Mint. It covers the southeast part of the city and includes le Vieux Saint-Boniface, Norwood West, Norwood East, Windsor Park, Niakwa Park, Niakwa Place, Southdale, Southland Park, Royalwood, Sage Creek and Island Lakes, plus a large industrial area. The ward is represented by Matt Allard, a member of Winnipeg City Council, and also corresponds to the neighbourhood clusters of St. Boniface East and West. The population was 58,520 according to the Canada 2016 Census.

Miyuki Tanobe is a Japanese-born Canadian painter, based in Montreal, Quebec. She is known for her paintings of the everyday life of Montreal residents. Her work is in the collections of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée du Québec, Lavalin, Pratt & Whitney, and Shell Canada, and Selection du Reader’s Digest. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Place-Saint-Henri station Montreal Metro station

Place-Saint-Henri station is a Montreal Metro station in the borough of Le Sud-Ouest in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is operated by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and serves the Orange Line. It is located in the Saint-Henri neighbourhood.

Saint Boniface—Saint Vital

Saint Boniface—Saint Vital is a federal electoral district in Winnipeg, Manitoba that has been represented in the House of Commons of Canada since 1925.

Patricia Claxton is a Canadian translator, primarily of Quebec literature.

Lorette, Manitoba Place in Manitoba, Canada

Lorette, originally named Petite Pointe du Chênes, is an unincorporated community recognized as a local urban district in the Rural Municipality of Taché, located 25 km southeast of Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba, Canada. The French-speaking Métis traders and farmers who first settled the area named it Petite Pointe du Chênes. Bishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché later changed the name to Lorette, honoring a French priest who donated a significant sum to the construction of the Saint Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg.

Le Cercle Molière French live theatre group based in Manitoba

Le Cercle Molière is a theatre company in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, dedicated to "promoting French-language theatre in Manitoba".

Maison Gabrielle-Roy historical house museum in St. Boniface, Manitoba

La Maison Gabrielle Roy or The House of Gabrielle Roy is a museum in the former home of writer Gabrielle Roy. The house is located in Saint Boniface, Manitoba, Canada. The objective of the museum is to disseminate the works of Roy and to preserve a piece of heritage for Canadian history.

St. Malo is an unincorporated community recognized as a local urban district located in the Rural Municipality of De Salaberry, approximately 70 km south of The Forks, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Most of the community's residents are bilingual francophone of Métis or Québécois heritage.

<i>Street of Riches</i>

Street of Riches is a novel by the Canadian author Gabrielle Roy.

<i>The Tin Flute</i>

The Tin Flute, Canadian author Gabrielle Roy’s first novel, is a classic of Canadian fiction. Imbued with Roy's brand of compassion and understanding, this story focuses on a family in the Saint-Henri slums of Montreal, its struggles to overcome poverty and ignorance, and its search for love.

Émilius Goulet

Emilius Goulet, PSS was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Boniface in the Province of Manitoba, Canada. He was appointed Archbishop by Pope John Paul II on June 23, 2001 and was consecrated in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Boniface, Manitoba on September 13, 2001 by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal; Archbishop Maurice Couture, R.S.V.(Religieux de Saint Vincent de Paul), Archbishop of Quebec (City); and Archbishop James Vernon Weisgerber, Archbishop of Winnipeg.

The Franco-manitoban School Division is a school division in Manitoba, Canada offering French-language education to its students. The right to French education was gained through Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Division was formed in 1994, following court challenges that established the rights of minority-language groups in Canada to separate education systems.

École publique Gabrielle-Roy Public francophone school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

École publique Gabrielle-Roy is an elementary, junior and senior high school in the Strathearn community of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It provides public francophone education to students from Kindergarten to grade 12. École Enfantine is a preschool program located within the school for children eligible for francophone education aged 3 and 4 years old. This playschool is operated by a parent committee and Fédération des Parents Francophones de l'Alberta. The school also houses a daycare and before and after-school care program called Centre d'expérience préscolaire et parascolaire.

François Ricard is a Canadian writer and academic from Quebec. He has been a professor of French literature at McGill University since 1980, including a special but not exclusive focus on the work of Milan Kundera and Gabrielle Roy, and has published numerous works of non-fiction.

Annette Saint-Pierre, CM is a Canadian educator, writer and publisher.

Laurent Poliquin

Laurent Poliquin is a Franco-Manitoban poet.

Pauline Boutal C.M. was a French-born Canadian artist, theatrical designer, actress and educator.


  1. Ricard, François (2016). "Gabrielle Roy". In Cook, Ramsay; Bélanger, Réal (eds.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography . XXI (1981–1990) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  2. Bonheur d'occasion, Boréal Compact, Éditions du Boréal, 1993. ISBN   2-89052-575-9
  3. The Tin Flute, translated by Alan Brown, New Canadian Library, McClelland & Stewart, 1989. ISBN   0-7710-9860-X
  4. Legacy: How French Canadians shaped North America. Signal. 2019. pp. 233–256. ISBN   978-0-7710-7239-0. (also in French: Bâtisseurs d'Amérique. Des canadiens français qui ont faite de l'histoire. La Presse, Montréal 2016, p 29-60)
  5. The Art and Design of Canadian Bank Notes (PDF). Bank of Canada. 6 December 2006. ISBN   0660632462.