Gabrielle Roy Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226301-Roy.jpgGabrielle Roy Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Gabrielle Roy was the youngest of eleven children of Leon and Melina Roy, eight of whom survived to maturity. For eighteen years, her father had been a federal Department of Colonization agent, helping immigrants settle in the Prairie Provinces. He was dismissed in 1915 by newly elected Conservatives shortly before becoming eligible for a pension. Gabrielle grew up in poverty in St. Boniface, a largely French-speaking suburb of Winnipeg. Despite winning best-in-province medals in high school, university education was unattainable. She attended Winnipeg Normal Institute, graduating in 1929, and worked at several schools before being hired in 1930 to teach first grade at Winnipeg’s prestigious Catholic boys’ academy.

In September, 1937, having obtained a leave of absence, Roy sailed for Europe. Brief attendance at a London theater school ended dreams of becoming a professional actress. Three articles accepted by a Paris weekly convinced her that she could succeed as a French writer. Roy returned to Canada in April, 1939. Despite objections of her mother, who could not understand abandoning a secure, well-paying job during the Great Depression, as well as the anger of her sisters who thought she was selfishly evading contributing to family finances, Roy settled in Montreal as a freelance journalist.

Roy’s work pleased editors of Le Bulletin des agriculteurs, a general-interest monthly magazine circulating mainly in rural Quebec. During the next five years, they regularly commissioned articles. In 1941, to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of Montreal, Le Bulletin des agriculteurs published four essays in which Roy toured the city. She did not focus on poverty, but neither did she ignore it when visiting slums along Montreal’s waterfront.

Hoping that the drama and tragedy she sensed in slum life could be turned into literature, Roy began a short story in 1941 that grew into an eight-hundred-page manuscript. Published in French as Bonheur d’occasion in Montreal in 1945 and in English as The Tin Flute in New York and Toronto in 1947, Roy’s novel became a financial and public relations success previously unheard of in Canada.

Montreal critics praised the novel’s thematic freshness. Readers responded...

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Gabrielle Roy Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Gabrielle Roy’s first novel established her enduring reputation as a major Canadian author. Her books exerted a powerful influence on later Canadian writers, encouraging them to deal realistically with Canadian life. The novels continued in print in both French and English editions into the twenty-first century, and her readers remained enthusiastic. Roy’s childhood home was turned into a museum, and an admirer leads walking tours of the places in Montreal described in her novels. When the Bank of Canada in 2004 introduced a new twenty-dollar bill designed to honor arts and culture, it included a quotation from Roy on the back of the bank note.

Gabrielle Roy Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born into a large Roman Catholic, French-speaking family in Manitoba, Canada, Gabrielle Roy was educated in the French language at a time when French Canadians were considered by many to be second-class citizens of their native land. She was a gifted student who also became proficient in English while in school. For a time she aspired to an acting career and participated in a French-speaking theater group in Manitoba. Having to earn a living, however, she chose to enroll in a teacher-training program at the Winnipeg Normal Institute. This led to appointments in several elementary schools, including one in the most remote region of the province. Whatever the hardships, this remoteness would prove invaluable for her second novel, Where Nests the Water Hen.

A youthful Roy began to feel that Canadian provincialism was a burden, so she left Canada for Europe, living in both France and England for extended periods of time. During this stage of her life, like many other gifted North American artists who lived for a time in Europe, she studied drama and wrote reflective sketches of Canadian life. When she returned to North America, she was ready to concentrate on her literary calling. At the age of thirty-eight, she married Marcel Carbotte. Although initially the couple appeared to have much in common, and though they spent three years together in France—where Carbotte acquired his medical specialization in gynecology—they spent the last years of their marriage living separately. They had no children, and Roy always referred to her books as her progeny.

By 1952, Roy established residence in Quebec City, which she regarded as the Francophone center of North America. She continued to write and took an active part in the English translation of her books. Frequently consulted on matters of Canadian culture, she was selected to serve on the panel that gave Expo 67 its central theme. It was her proposal, “Terre des hommes,” which was inspired by the title of a 1939 book by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, that led to the exhibition’s theme. Roy died in Quebec City in 1983 at the age of seventy-four.

Gabrielle Roy Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gabrielle Roy (rah), the youngest of eleven children, was born on March 22, 1909, in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, a francophone community in predominantly anglophone western Canada. The linguistic heritage and cultural hegemony of which Roy was enormously proud did not blind her, however, to the existence of other ethnic groups on the Manitoban prairies. Moreover, it made her acutely sensitive to the aspirations of other nationalities new to the province. Her father, Léon Roy, was a federal colonization agent who assisted the settlement of Ruthenians, Dukhobors, Mennonites, and Hutterites. The young girl grew up, therefore, at a time when the prairies were being extensively settled by pioneers of diverse ethnic background, individuals whose language, customs, and singular physical appearance, in some instances, afforded different perceptions of life that would manifest themselves later in her prose.

In 1927, Léon Roy died, leaving Gabrielle’s mother, Mélina, and Gabrielle to support themselves. After attending the Winnipeg Normal School from 1927 to 1929, Roy began an eight-year teaching career, a profession that had been heartily approved by her mother. Her works, La Petite Poule d’eau (1950; Where Nests the Water Hen, 1950) and Ces enfants de ma vie (1977; Children of My Heart, 1979), are inspired by her teaching experiences.

Despite the satisfaction that she felt in teaching, Roy was destined to travel, a recurrent theme in her fiction, in which life is perceived as a voyage, following a circular movement that brings the individual, often in memory, back to the initial point of departure.

Her return to Quebec in 1939, after travels in Europe, proved to be of extreme importance in the development of her aesthetics, her perception of life, with its joys and troubles, and her humanistic philosophy. Living first in Montreal, Roy worked as a freelance journalist for Le Bulletin des agriculteurs, Le Jour, and Le Canada. Her pieces reflect her profound...

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Gabrielle Roy Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gabrielle Roy’s vision of existence is evoked through fictionalized and semiautobiographical works that communicate an ardent desire to achieve fulfilling and open relationships between men and women, children and adults. The solitude and sometimes interior exile described in her works, however, is an existential constant, but it does not carry a bleak message. Rather, it incites the reader to reassess, as many of her characters do, the importance of life in a collectivity and the power of individual desires in order to understand oneself better.

Gabrielle Roy Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gabrielle Roy (rah), a principal figure in twentieth century French Canadian literature, well known for her contribution to Canadian social realism and her probing psychological portraits, is one of the most widely read francophone authors in anglophone Canada.

Born March 22, 1909, in the French community of Saint-Boniface in the primarily anglophone province of Manitoba, Roy was the youngest of eleven children. The sudden death in 1927 of her father, Léon Roy, a colonization agent for the government, left her and her mother, Mélina, in a very difficult financial situation. Consequently, despite an award-winning high school academic record, Roy was not able to attend a university. Instead, she received teacher...

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