It is June 20, 1952, a decade after the events described in The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant, the first volume of Michel Tremblay’s series of autobiographical fiction. The mystic, yet palpable instant of summer’s arrival is experienced simultaneously by the fat woman’s son (who is never named) and Marcel. These moving, profoundly different epiphanies of a transforming world, seen through the memories of the characters, set the stage for the action of the novel which takes place in the space of this single, evocative day. The fat woman’s son experiences this moment as an episode of profound personal objectification—he sees himself as in a photo of that larger, inclusive moment. Marcel, on the other hand, literally seizes the moment, and stores it in his school bag as a physical thing.
It is also the day of final exams at the École Saint-Stanislas where the fat woman’s son, a boy who lives inside the books he loves, is in the “gifted” class, and his cousin Marcel, the “mad” family terror, is in the class for “slow learners.” Racked by envy at what he sees as Marcel’s genius—his ability to create and function in another dimension of reality—the gifted child blanks out during the French exam.
The first quarter of the moon—which rises over the final scenes of the novel in which the fat woman’s son recognizes and acknowledges his cousin Marcel’s genius—is an exquisitely crafted and resonant metaphor for the symbiotic relation between the imaginary and the real, the privileged “educated elite” and the “great unwashed,” innocence and experience, sanity and madness.
About the authors
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.
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.