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Fiction Literary

The Black Notebook

by (author) Michel Tremblay

translated by Sheila Fischman

Initial publish date
Sep 2006
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2006
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In the heart of the Latin Quarter, meeting place of marginal characters of all sorts, Céline Poulin works the night shift at a cheap and popular restaurant, Le Sélect, serving hamburger platters and spaghetti and meatballs to student misfits, transvestites, hookers and queens from the Main—Montreal’s disreputable Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Hanging out with a theatre company in her off hours, Céline sees opening before her a world where it is not only possible, but even desirable to pretend. When the director offers her a role in The Trojan Women, the die is cast.

The Black Notebook is Céline’s diary, her account of her trials and tribulations, her expectations and her cruel disappointments, because this young waitress at Le Sélect has her own dramatic story to tell, even if only to herself: Céline is a midget.

From the theatre of Euripides to the theatre of Montreal’s Main, Michel Tremblay—our Balzac—creates and gives voice to some astonishing new characters in this first of a new series of novels. For the characters of The Black Notebook, the first in this trilogy, life is a comedy that barely conceals the cruel and pitiless tragedy of the everyday. With a transcendent eloquence and compassion, Michel Tremblay celebrates how it is possible for Céline to embrace her difference and to flourish—despite that difference, or perhaps, because of it.

About the authors

Michel Tremblay
One of the most produced and the most prominent playwrights in the history of Canadian theatre, Michel Tremblay has received countless prestigious honours and accolades. His dramatic, literary and autobiographical works have long enjoyed remarkable international popularity, including translations of his plays that have achieved huge success in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.
Awards and Recognition*
Prix du Grand (2009) La Traversée de la ville (Leméac Editeur Inc.)
Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix (2006)
Globe and Mail Top 100 Books (2003) Birth of a Bookworm
Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play (2000) For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
Chalmers Awards (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1986, 1989, 2000)
Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (1999)
Molson Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1994)
Louis-Hémon Prize (1994)
Montreal Book Fair Grand Public Prize (1994)
Banff Centre National Award (1992)
Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of France (1991)
Chevalier of the Order of Quebec (1990)
San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Festival Long-Standing Public Service Award (1989)
CBC Anik Prize (1988)
Athanase-David Lifetime Achievement Prize (1988)
Quebec-Paris Prize (1985)
Chevalier of Arts and Letters of France (1984)
John Van Burek
John Van Burek has been a practising theatre artist for over 20 years, in both French and English, throughout Canada. He has also worked in the fields of opera, film and television. He is also one of Canada’s leading translators for theatre, most notably of Michel Tremblay’s plays, including Les Belles-Soeurs (Talonbooks). Mr. Van Burek has received several awards and citations for his work, including the Toronto Drama Bench Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Canadian Theatre.
Bill Glassco
Born in Quebec, William Grant (?Bill”) Glassco was a Canadian theatre director, producer and founder of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. He then became the artistic director of the CentreStage Theatre Company which merged, in 1988, with the Toronto Free Theatre to become CanStage. In 1982, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Michel Tremblay's profile page

Sheila Fischman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Michel Tremblay succeeds in building a rich and tangible universe. The Black Notebook possesses a rare intelligence in painting lively portraits of those in struggle, who do not play by established rules and who cannot be defined by absolutes.”
Le Devoir

“Few will fail to empathize with the demi-heroine featuring in The Black Notebook’s pages … Despite the sometimes inescapable seriousness of his material, Tremblay will induce chortles, chuckles and belly laughs in hapless readers, not to mention expanding upon the delight readers will no doubt take in his mastery of caricature. With a stroke here, a telling detail there, he creates characters who linger in the mind to participate in a marvellously mysterious mental dance.

The internationally revered playwright continues to prove his prowess, economically telegraphing the anguish of savaged youth evapourating into an anonymous and opaque past, which can only be rescued by brave new words and lovingly shaping a fictional world that magnifies, clarifies and illuminates our own obdurate existence.”
Globe and Mail

“Tremblay’s work has always been marked by his compassion for the underdog—women more often than not—and The Black Notebook continues that tradition … The Black Notebook emerges as a powerful character study, a social history—as always with Tremblay, the political content is there, but always as an organic element of the story—as well as a love letter to the world of the theatre.”
Montreal Review of Books

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