Franco-Ontarian Literature — A Delicate Strength
by Katherine Lagrandeur, Library and Archives Canada
Although Franco-Ontarian literature had existed previously, mainly in the form of poetry and stories, it blossomed in the early 1970s, at a time when other Francophone communities outside Quebec were also affirming their own identity.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Franco-Ontarian writers focused on two specific genres-drama and poetry-and addressed issues such as identity, language, work, belonging and collective survival. These same themes are found in Gens d'ici (1981) by Jean-Marc Dalpé: "Our language / is sweat, wood, earth and winter / It is what binds us to this country / Our voices will never be silenced / Our words are not for sale" [Translation].
Sudbury was a focal point for this new literary explosion. It was the home base for two major artistic institutions in Francophone Ontario: Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, established in 1970; and Éditions Prise de parole, launched sometime around 1973. Sudbury also figured in the works of many writers, including Jean-Marc Dalpé, Patrice Desbiens and Robert Dickson, the latter dedicating a poem to the city in Humains paysages en temps de paix relative, which won the Governor General's Literary Award in 2002.
The North has been a recurring theme in Franco-Ontarian literature since the publication of André Paiement's Moé, j'viens du Nord, 'stie in 1970 and recently in Myriam Legault's novel À grandes gorgées de poussière (2006).
Other places also haunt the Franco-Ontarian imagination, as found in Daniel Poliquin's Nouvelles de la Capitale (1987) and La Côte de Sable (2000), Marguerite Andersen's Les crus de l'Esplanade (1998), and Ainsi parle la Tour CN (1999) by Hédi Bouraoui.
Having found their voice and their place, Franco-Ontarian writers now tackle a range of themes and styles. Franco-Ontarian literature is becoming increasingly open to the world, with the participation of writers from various Francophone communities. However, they all share a common challenge, to write in French in Ontario, a task that puts them in a delicate position. As François Paré, author of many articles and books on Franco-Ontarian literature, so elegantly puts it: "Literature, in itself, is always a delicate process"1 [Translation].
1 François Paré. Théories de la fragilité. Ottawa: Le Nordir, 1994, p. 9.
See also Ontario (English Literature)