Literary Prizes in French | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Literary Prizes in French

In 1922, at the insistence of Athanase David, provincial secretary, the Québec government created a number of literary and scientific competitions. Their awards became the most highly valued of all in Québec, as much for their prestige as for their monetary value.

Literary Prizes in French

 The first literary award in Québec dates from 1809, the year when the Société historique de Québec held its first literary competition. The stated topic was the 50th anniversary of the accession of King George III. Other competitions followed, sponsored by societies or periodicals. These competitions, which gained publicity for their funding bodies, usually dealt with historical or political themes. At the beginning of the 20th century, 2 annual awards were inaugurated which quickly won wide renown: the Action intellectuelle award of the Association de la jeunesse canadienne-française, open to candidates of age 35 or under, and the poetry competition of the Société des poètes canadiens-français.

In 1922, at the insistence of Athanase David, provincial secretary, the Québec government created a number of literary and scientific competitions. Their awards became the most highly valued of all in Québec, as much for their prestige as for their monetary value. The Prix Duvernay and that awarded by the Cercle du Livre de France are the 2 other important prizes created before the 1960s, when an explosion of Québec awards took place, some of which still exist.

The list of literary prizes awarded in Québec now covers a wide number of fields apart from the novel, notably journalism, science, history, literature for young people, the novel and poetry. There are also some regional awards.

 The Prix Athanase-David (Prix David), which has existed in its present form since 1968, honours an author for the totality of his work. This prize, the most highly valued in Québec, is for $15 000 and applies to all literary genres. The winners, 1968-86, are Monseigneur Félix-Antoine Savard, Alain Grandbois, Gabrielle Roy, Paul-Marie Lapointe, Hubert Aquin, Marcel Dubé, Rina Lasnier, Fernand Dumont, Pierre Vadeboncoeur, Jacques Ferron, Anne Hébert, Yves Thériault, Gérard Bessette, Gilles Archambault, Marie-Claire Blais, Gaston Miron, Jean-Guy Pilon and Jacques Godbout.

In 1959, the Canada Council assumed responsibility for the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD ($5000) and created a French division. Instituted in 1937 by the CANADIAN AUTHORS ASSOCIATION, these awards have honoured many authors in all literary fields.

One of the oldest Québec awards (1949), the Prix Esso du Cercle du Livre de France ($5000) for an unpublished work of fiction, has been offered since 1977 by the oil company whose name it bears.

The Prix Molson of the ACADÉMIE CANADIENNE-FRANÇAISE and the UNION DES ÉCRIVAINS QUÉBÉCOIS, awards a $5000 scholarship to a Québec or francophone Canadian novelist.

The Translation Prize of the Canada Council ($5000) goes to the 2 best translations, one French and one English. The same organization also gives a prize for youth literature ($5000), instituted in 1975 and awarded to one French-language and one English-language work.

The Grand Prix de poésie Gatien-Lapointe (1984), to a maximum of $5000, is awarded to a francophone Canadian poet. In 1979 the Fondation Émile-Nelligan honoured the centenary of Émile NELLIGAN's birth by creating a prize of the same name ($3000) for poets age 35 or under. Winners to date are François Charron, Claude Beausoleil, Jean-Yves Collette, Philippe Haeck and Jocelyne Félix, Lucien Francoeur and Anne-Marie Alonzo.

Created in 1958 as the Prix France-Canada, the Prix Québec-Paris (1982) is jointly administered by the Association France-Canada and the government of Québec. It is awarded to a French Canadian writer whose work has appeared in Canada or in France. The winner receives a $2000 scholarship from the government of Québec plus 4000 NF from the City of Paris.

The Prix France-Québec Jean-Hamelin (formerly the Prix France-Québec) was founded in 1965 by the Association des écrivains de langue française (ADELF) with the help of the DÉLÉGATIONS GÉNÉRALE DU QUÉBEC. Worth 2000 NF, it is awarded to a French-language writer born in North America.

The Prix Canada-Suisse ($2500), founded in 1980 by the Canada Council and the Swiss Pro Helvetia Foundation, is alternately awarded to a Canadian and a Swiss writer for a work published in French. The same principle applies to the Prix Canada-Communauté française de Belgique ($2500), which is given for the entire body of the winner's work rather than one particular piece, and the Prix de littérature de jeunesse Québec/Wallonie-Bruxelles ($2500).

Created in 1978 by the Salon International du livre de Québec, the Prix Robert-Cliché for unpublished writers offers 3 prizes ($2000, $500 and $300), which are awarded by the newspaper Le Soleil. The prize-winning works are published in Québec by Les Éditions Quinze and by Québec-Loisirs, and co-published in France.

The 3 Grands Prix du Journal de Montréal (for poetry, novels and plays) follow from the Prix Littéraires du Journal de Montréal, instituted in 1980. Each of the winners receives a $1500 scholarship.

Finally, the Prix Molson, created in 1963 and managed by the Canada Council, may be awarded to a writer. This highly prestigious prize, worth $50 000, honours Canadians who have distinguished themselves in the arts, the humanities or the social sciences. In 1998, the novelist, playwright and journalist André Langevin won the award. Other prestigious winners include Anne Hébert, Gabrielle Roy and Jacques Godbout.