Quebec Studies

Literature and Intellectual Realignments in Québec

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 32–56.

Abstract

Literature and Intellectual Realignments in Québec Robert Schwartzwald In the 1960s and early 1970s, Québec writers produced, both through their textual and personal interventions, among the most compelling arguments for national independence. By creatively appropriating the writings of the anti-colonial theoreticians of Africa and the Antilles and their French sympa­ thizers—Frantz Fanon, Albert Memmi, Aimé Cesaire, Jacques Berque, and, of course, Jean-Paul Sartre—writers articulated a global characterization of Quebec's oppression neatly captured by Malcolm Reid, one of the earliest "historians" of what is often known as the "Parti pris" generation (after the radical review founded in October 1963): A society which had been conquered, bypassed by the creative movement of modern history, one which served only as a labor force for productive forces set up by others, which showed the marks, in impoverished bodies and impoverished spirits, of this exclusion, was a colony. The worthy response of the member of such a society w h o had awakened to his situation was anti-colonial revolution. 1 It would be fair to say that much of what is preserved today as the "historic memory" of the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s is, in fact, the vigorous critique of that "revo­ lution" from this broad anti-colonial perspective. In popular consciousness, particularly among those looking at Québec from the outside, the reforms actually carried out under the Liberal regime of Jean Lesage have become conflated with the radical and often revolutionary exhortations of the period. To the extent that historical moments remain with us because of their "aura," this development is no surprise, since the anticolonial writers were, indeed, responsible for providing the 2

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Schwartzwald, Robert