In October of 2017 Québec City was officially designated a ‘‘City of Literature’’ by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, the first French-speaking city to receive this honour. It shares this distinction with other cities such as Dublin, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Prague, and Iowa, to name a few. This was awarded due to a variety of factors including the success of the Québec City public library network, its many publishing houses, as well as being one of the only cities to offer a doctoral program in creative writing, offered by the Université Laval. The Mayor of Québec City, Régis Labeaume, had this to say; ‘‘Québec City is the cradle of French-language culture in North America. It's a creative city on the move, and its rich literary life reflects the French-speaking, English-speaking, and Indigenous people who live here.’’ Read-on to get some ideas on which pieces of Québec literature you can study with your students, as well as interesting places to visit in Québec City that contributed to its title as a City of Literature.
Paul à Québec
‘‘Paul à Québec’’ (‘’The Song of Roland’’ in English) is a graphic novel written by Québécois author Michel Rabagliati. The book is a great introduction to Québécois culture, the story opens on Saint-Jean-Baptiste day, Québec’s national holiday. It explores the main character’s Paul’s life during his father’s struggle with cancer. The author writes what he knows, and as such the dialogue is very Québécois-Montréalaise. Since the story is animated through comics, it can be a great way to get students interested in the French language. In 2015 it was turned into a movie of the same name, which would be a great end to the lesson.
Maison de la littérature
A unique place in North America, the Maison de la littérature in the only combination public library and centre for literary creation on the continent. It is a beautiful feat of architecture located in the former Wesley Church of Old Québec.
Cher journal: Les mots qu’il me reste
Written by Ruby Slipperjack, ‘‘Cher journal: Les mots qu’il me reste’’ (‘‘Dear Canada: These Are My Words’’ in English) is a book about the character Violette Pesheen and her struggles at a Canadian residential school. She is worried about forgetting her Anishnabe language, culture, and family. Slipperjack is a celebrated author of Indigenous and children’s literature. In this important and heart-wrenching story, she draws inspiration from her own childhood experiences.
Visiting the Huron Traditional Site Onhoüa Chetek8e is a great opportunity to lean about the Huron-Wendat culture, both past and present, through handicrafts workshops, legends, performances, and even cuisine.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Mordecai Richler is a renown Canadian author who gives voice to the Anglophone-Jewish experience of Montréal. The work that put him on the map was ‘‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,’’ a hilarious book about Duddy, third generation Jewish immigrant, who wants to ‘‘be somebody.’’ Through the book the reader follows him on his adventures at a Jewish academy and onto his adulthood working four jobs. This book truly allows the reader to feel the character of the city of Montréal. It was made into a movie of the same name in 1974.
The Morrin Centre
The Morrin Centre is Québec City’s English Language cultural centre. This building is steeped in history as it was built over 200 years ago as a prison, which Scottish immigrants then turned into Québec’s first English institution of higher learning, and has since been transformed into a beautiful library.
No list of famous Québécois literature would be complete without Gabrielle Roy’s ‘‘Bonheur d’occasion’’ (‘‘The Tin Flute’’ in English) A classic of Canadian fiction, the story takes place in the Montréal slum of St-Henri during WW2. Florentine Lacasse is the main character who works as a dime-store waitress. Her father dies in the war and her brother suffers leukemia. It is a grim book with insight into the human condition. The book won a lot of awards including the Governor’s General Award for Fiction in 1947.
The Université Laval has a beautiful campus in Old Québec and is the oldest centre of French higher education in Canada. It is among the top ten universities of Canada in terms of research. It offers over 500 programs to its more than 42,500 students.