François Ricard, O.Q., literary critic, essayist, editor, professor of literature (born 4 June 1947 in Shawinigan, QC). Noted for his writings on Gabrielle Roy and Milan Kundera, François Ricard is the recipient of a Governor General's Literary Award. A professor at McGill University in Montréal, he has left a profound mark on French-language book publishing in Canada.
Education and Early Career
After earning his master’s degree at McGill University, Ricard completed his doctoral studies at the University of Aix-Marseille, France, where he received his Ph.D. in 1971. In the 1980s, he served as a full professor of French and Québec literature in the Department of French Language and Literature at McGill.
His career as a published author began in 1972 with a study of the novel Menaud, maître-draveur by Québec author Félix-Antoine Savard. Three years later, Ricard published his first essay about novelist Gabrielle Roy, one of the grande dames of Québec and Canadian literature. After participating in the founding of the publishing house Éditions du Sentier in 1978, he began writing short fiction, publishing the tale Le Prince et la Ténèbre in 1980 and the story L’Incroyable odyssée in 1981.
Author, Editor and Journalist
From 1980 to 1986, Ricard served as editor of the literary journal Liberté and wrote many articles and reviews for the journals Spirale, L’Atelier du roman and L’Inconvénient. He also served as a literary critic for Radio-Canada and hosted a documentary series on the history of Québec from 1930 to 1980 on Québec’s public broadcast network, Radio-Québec (now Télé-Québec). At the same time, together with Paul-André Linteau, René Durocher and Jean-Claude Robert, he authored the second volume of L’histoire du Québec contemporain (1989), a history of Québec since the 1930s.
In 1983, Ricard became literary editor of the publishing house Éditions du Boréal Express (now Les Éditions du Boréal). The following year, he founded and became editor of the series Papiers collés, which published collections of essays by well-known Québec authors such as Fernand Dumont, Gilles Marcotte, Gilles Archambault, Jacques Godbout, André Major, Jacques Brault, Pierre Vadeboncoeur and Lise Bissonnette. In 1985, Ricard published his own first collection of essays, La Littérature contre elle-même, at Boréal.
In 1992, Ricard published a brilliant book-length essay entitled La génération lyrique, in which he presented a detailed portrait of the early members of the baby boom. This book became one of his most celebrated and most hotly debated works. The Québec newsmagazine L’Actualité called it “one of the 35 books you must read if you want to understand Québec.”
In 1996, Ricard published his second work about his friend Gabrielle Roy, a lengthy biography with the simple title Gabrielle Roy. Une vie (Gabrielle Roy. A life). As a board member, secretary/treasurer and director of the Gabrielle Roy Foundation, he also oversaw the publication of the centenary edition of the author’s complete works by Boréal from 2009 to 2013.
François Ricard is also an expert on the work of Czech author Milan Kundera (born 1929 in Brno, Czechoslovakia). In the French-speaking world, Ricard is well known as the author of the afterwords to almost all of the French translations of Kundera’s work published in the Folio paperback collection. In 2003, Ricard published an essay on Kundera’s work, entitled Le dernier après-midi d’Agnès. Essai sur l’œuvre de Milan Kundera, since published in English as Agnès's final afternoon: an essay on the work of Milan Kundera, as well as in Dutch, Chinese, Greek, Italian and German. Ricard also wrote the preface and biography for the two-volume French-language edition of Kundera’s complete works, published by France’s prestigious Bibliothèque de La Pléiade.
In 2005, Ricard presented Québec readers with Chroniques d’un temps loufoque, a second collection of his essays originally published in the journal L’Atelier du roman. In 2010, together with Isabelle Daunais and Sophie Marcotte, he authored an essay entitled Gabrielle Roy et l'art du roman, followed in 2012 by another written with Daunais alone, entitled La Pratique du roman. In 2014, he published his third essay collection, Mœurs de province, again with Boréal.
Honours and Awards
Lucid, rigorous and much respected by his peers, François Ricard has received many awards and prizes over his prolific career. In 1985, he received a Governor General's Literary Award for his book-length essay La littérature contre elle-même. He received a Killam Research Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts in 1988, became a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1989 and was made a Knight of the Ordre national du Québec in 1997.
Also in 1997, Ricard’s remarkable biography of Gabrielle Roy (Gabrielle Roy. Une vie) earned him the Jean-Éthier Blais Award for Literary Criticism, as well as a nomination for a Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction in French. In 1999, this same work received the Maxime Raymond Award from the Lionel Groulx Foundation, the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize from the Writers' Trust of Canada, and the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography.
In 2003, Ricard received his third nomination for a Governor’s General’s Literary Award, this time for his essay on Milan Kundera. In 2005, the Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas) gave him the André Laurendeau Award for the Humanities. In 2009, his lifetime achievement was recognized with an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba and a Killam Prize in the humanities from the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2011, he received two more awards for lifetime achievement: the prestigious Grande Médaille de la francophonie, from the Académie française, and the Médaille de l’Académie des lettres du Québec.
L’art de Félix-Antoine Savard dans « Menaud, maître-draveur » (Fides, 1972)
Gabrielle Roy (Fides, 1975)
La Littérature contre elle-même, with a preface by Milan Kundera (Boréal, 1985)
With Marcel Fortin and Yvan Lamonde, Guide de la littérature québécoise (Boréal, 1988)
With René Durocher, Paul-André Linteau and Jean-Claude Robert, Histoire du Québec contemporain, vol. 2, Le Québec depuis 1930 (Boréal, 1989)
La génération lyrique – Essai sur la vie et l'œuvre des premiers-nés du baby-boom (Boréal, 1992)
Inventaire des archives personnelles de Gabrielle Roy conservées à la Bibliothèque nationale du Canada (Boréal, 1992)
Gabrielle Roy. Une vie (Boréal, 1996)
Introduction à l'œuvre de Gabrielle Roy, 1945-1975 (Éditions Nota bene, 2001)
Le dernier après-midi d'Agnès. Essai sur l'œuvre de Milan Kundera (Gallimard, 2003)
Chroniques d'un temps loufoque (Boréal, 2005)
With Isabelle Daunais and Sophie Marcotte, Gabrielle Roy et l'art du roman, followed by Les Vacances, previously unpublished work by Gabrielle Roy (Boréal, 2010)
Preface and biography for Œuvre Milan Kundera, volumes 1 and 2 (Bibliothèque de La Pléiade, 2011).
With Isabelle Daunais, La pratique du roman (Boréal, 2012)
Mœurs de province (Boréal, 2014)
Album Gabrielle Roy (Boréal, 2014)
Tales and Stories
Le Prince et la Ténèbre (Lucie Lambert Éditions, 1980)
L'Incroyable odyssée – Récit d’une jeunesse (Éditions du Sentier, 1981)
Afterword to Honoré Beaugrand, La Chasse-galerie et autres récits (Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1989)