Une Saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel (1965), by Marie-Claire Blais, is a darkly lyrical vision of Québec, an act of revolt distinguished by its black humour. Employing multiple viewpoints and blurring reality with nightmare, Blais narrates events surrounding the winter birth of Emmanuel, sixteenth child of a peasant family. The perspective of his indomitable grandmother Antoinette frames the novel, itself dominated by the autobiographical manuscripts of Emmanuel's brother Jean Le Maigre, an adolescent friar and tubercular genius.
The lives and deaths of Emmanuel's siblings, like the themes of incest and corrupt monastic life, constitute an allegory of insularity and ignorance as well as a literal response to cold and hunger. Acclaimed by American critic Edmund Wilson in his preface to Derek Coltman's translation, A Season in the Life of Emmanuel (1966), the novel won numerous prizes at home and abroad, and has been translated into a dozen languages.