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Athabasca University

Nicole Brossard

Nicole Brossard is one of Quebec’s leading poets, novelists, and literary theorists. She is a lesbian, feminist, post-modernist, formalist whose ouevre tends to render facile such categorizations as novel, essay, or non-fiction. Says Brossard, "The experience of text, understood as crossing through writing, will be transformed by experimentation, that is, by a strategy bound to disrupt (Aerial Letter, 69.)"

Le desert mauve (1987) / Mauve Desert (trans. 1990), perhaps Brossard’s best-known work, is published, for example, as a novel but contains such unlikely or ‘disruptive’ elements as multiple books with separate paginations, a photography spread, character sketches, theatrical dialogue, footnotes, and short pages that could best be described as prose poems. L’amèr: ou le chapitre effrité (1977) is published as "fiction théorique" and a bilingual essay published in 1998, She would be the First Sentence of my Next Novel/Elle serait la premiere phrase de mon prochain roman is "auto-fiction". Brossard writes against patriarchy, linearity, and the language and textuality that she understands to colonize and silence women. She is fiercely dedicated to feminism and earnestly believes in the power of literature to evoke change.

I me it: I can’t deprive myself of it. The equilibrium needed in order to survive this non-renunciation is found in the solitary intimate act of writing – the personal of our political (‘social’ would be too nice) condition—an endless wanting to understand, which spreads out, seeking for itself, for its reading vision, the voluptuous practice of seeing further and further away forever (Brossard, Aerial Letter, 40).

Brossard began her career at the frontlines of the avant-garde poetry movement in Quebec. As well as being a prolific and influential author, Brossard has devoted much of her energies to serving as a feminist and literary activist. She was born in Montréal and studied at l’Université de Montréal and the Collège Marguerite Bourgeoys. She was the founding editor of La Barre du Jour, a formalist literary magazine intended to stimulate writing and break new ground in literary form and progressive thought. She has compiled and edited alternative anthologies (most recently, Baiser vertige: prose et poésie gaies et lesbiennes au Québec, 2006), organized literary events including readings and poetry performances, has participated in numerous literary festivals, and contributed to many academic conferences. In 1976 she co-directed the film Some American Feminists.

Nicole Brossard was twice awarded Canada’s Governor General prize for poetry; in 1974 for Mécanique Jongluese and in 1984 for Double Impression. She has received Quebec’s highest literary honour, le Prix Athanase-David (1991) for lifetime achievement in literature, and Le Grand Prix de Poesie de la Foundation les Forges in 1989 and 1999. Brossard’s work has been widely studied, translated, and anthologized. Much of her work has been translated into English. Le Désert Mauve has also been translated into German and Spanish. In 2006, she was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize for the more than thirty books of literature she has produced throughout her distinguished career.

Brossard’s work has lent itself to the production of rare editions such as Typhon Dru by Collectif Génération of Paris, a collaborative publication showcasing Brossard’s poem along with a photographic installation by Christine Davis. Davis' black and white photographs are framed by colourful woven ribbons and face Brossard’s text on opposing pages. The photographs become increasingly smaller while the ribbons framing them become increasingly wider on each page. D'arc de cycle la dérive is a long poem accompanied by engravings by artist Francine Simonin, published by Édition de la Maison. Seventy-five copies of D’arc de cycle la dérive were produced.

Collaborations with other poets, including Anglo-Canadian writer Daphne Marlatt and Spanish poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruzz, as well as Brossard’s translators, has led to the production of bilingual and even trilingual editions as well as books written partly in English and partly in French. Nicole Brossard currently lives in Montreal. Says Brossard, "I pledge myself to going against the grain. I wonder this over and understand its violence. To rise up (48.)" (Marlene Wurfel)

Updated February 12 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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