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Athabasca University

Marie Laberge

Born in 1950 in Quebec City, Marie Laberge is a versatile and prolific author, who has worked as a playwright, novelist, actress and director. In Canada, she is primarily known for her literature; in other francophone countries, for her plays.

As a girl, she received a Jesuit education, then studied dancing, followed by journalism, at the Université Laval, before devoting herself to the theatre. She graduated in 1975 from the Conservatoire d'Art dramatique de Québec, and began work as an actress. She then moved into directing and also began teaching drama. She has written some twenty plays, most of them staged in Quebec and Europe. L'Homme gris (1984), for example, gained the Prix Ludger–Duvernay (1997) and international attention, performed as it has been many times in Paris and Brussels, as well as in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal, and translated into those countries' languages. Her plays depict intense emotion, sometimes violence or melodrama. C'était avant la guerre à l'Anse à Gilles brought her national attention and the Governor General's Award for Drama in 1981, with its portrayal of a young widow who seeks to liberate herself from the oppression of Quebec village life in the 1930's. It was translated into English in 1986 as Before the War, Down at L'Anse à Gilles. Subsequent plays — Jocelyne Trudelle trouvée morte dans ses larmes, Deux Tangos pour toute une vie, Le Night Cap Bar, Oublier, Aurélie, ma soeur, for example — constitute a gallery of memorable female characters dealing with suicide, a passionate affair, traumatic childhood memories and complex family relations. Laberge also re–imagines the historical atmosphere and language of 12th–century France in Pierre, ou la Consolation, an imagined conversation between the mediaeval lovers Pierre Abélard and Héloïse.

She has been on the board of directors of various Québec theatre companies and organizations, including the Conseil québécois du théâtre and the Centre des auteurs dramatiques. She has also worked as editor of theatre publications at Boréal publishing house in Montreal. In 1995, at the request of then–Premier Jacques Parizeau, she drafted a Forward to the Quebec Declaration of Independence, in collaboration with Gilles Vigneault and other Quebec writers and cultural figures.

In 1989, Marie Laberge directed her first feature film, Les Heures précieuses. Since then, she has turned her attention to novel–writing, and has published nine novels. Her trilogy, Le Goût du Bonheur, examines the changes that have taken place in Quebec society over a period of forty years, beginning in the 1930's. The series has sold over 500,000 copies, making her one of Québec's most popular novelists, adored by the public. Throughout her work, Laberge's preoccupations remain the same: the experiences and reactions of her (mostly female) characters when faced with personal crisis. "Je veux écrire sur le moment dans la vie où l'être humain se révèle, s'expose, resent", she explains. She is particularly interested in the evolution of feminist values within a society that has often sought to quell such aspirations, and in the way social history touches individuals: "Les mouvements politiques et sociaux s'expriment toujours à travers chaque personne qui fait la société".

Over the course of her career, Laberge has received much recognition for her work, some highlights being twice named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1989, 2004), Officer of the Order of Canada (1996), Member of the Académie des Grands Québécois (2000) and Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec (2004). In 2009, she began a three–year project, the publication of an epistolary novel series, the Nouvelles de Martha. The novel appears in the form of twenty–six letters per year, which are delivered by mail and are available only to subscribers. The letters are personalized according to the gender of the reader, and describe the trajectory and growing self–awareness of the character of Martha, a working woman, mother and grandmother. (M. Krajicek)

Updated February 12 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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