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Michel Tremblay

  Michel Tremblay

If Michel Tremblay's biography includes more titles than events, it is quite simply because his life has been almost exclusively dedicated to writing. Even his first and last "job", as a typographer from 1963 to 1966, was linked to his one true calling. Born on June 25th, 1942, the "p'tit gars" from the Plateau Mont-Royal had little choice but to drop out of school after the eleventh grade to earn a living. He enrolled at the Institut des arts graphiques, following thus in the footsteps of his father, a pressman, who had captured his son's imagination by telling him that he was the only man authorized to use the iconic red of the Campbell's soup cans. Despite his admiration for his father, Michel Tremblay had already by age 17 secretly written a novelette in his school notebooks. He owes his vocation as a writer mainly to his mother, Nana, who instilled in her son a love of reading and a wonderful imagination. Nana passed away too early to witness to her son's first success -- first prize in Radio-Canada's competition for young authors for his first play, Le Train, in 1964. But she would remain at the heart of a body of work that, after showing the moral and social poverty of the Quebec family in works ranging from Les Belles-surs (1968) to Bonjour, là bonjour (1974), sought to celebrate the author's neighbourhood and family in a set of works entitled Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal [The Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal].

Tremblay's exploration of the world of his childhood would take the form of a series of autobiographical stories -- from Vues animées [Bambi and Me] (1990) to Un Ange cornu avec des ailes de tôle (1994) -- that mask a deeper exploration of identity. This quest, first suggested through his use of the theatrical icons of the transvestite (Hosanna, 1973) and the alter ego (Damnée Manon, Sacrée Sandra, 1977), found its full expression in the character Jean-Marc, who appears in both Tremblay's plays and novels. From Le Cur découvert [The Heart Laid Bare] (1986) to L'Homme qui entendait siffler une bouilloire (2000), this character who both purchases and appropriates "La Maison suspendue (1990) -- the Chroniques family's ancestral home -- has in many ways become the author's own alter ego. Through him, Michel Tremblay has managed to reconcile fiction and confession, novel and autobiography. Yet this highly personal work is also universal, as its extraordinary international success will testify. Michel Tremblay's plays have been translated into over twenty-five languages and presented on stages around the world. His wide-ranging oeuvre includes musicals such as Demain matin, Montréal m'attend (1970) and translations and adaptations of works by, among others, American authors. In recognition of his work, Michel Tremblay has received numerous awards -- the Prix Victor-Morin (1974), the Prix France-Québec (1984), the Chalmers Award (1986), the Molson Award and the Governor General's Performing Arts Award (1999) -- as well as honours both in Quebec and abroad. He was named the "Montréalais le plus remarquable des deux dernières décennies dans le domaine du théâtre" [the most remarkable Montrealer of the past two decades in theatre] (1978) and has received the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France (1994).

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