In conjunction with the Publishing in Québec 2012 print report (published on September 17 and 24), PW will continue to add new articles relevant to the Canadian publishing industry.
Publishing in Quebec:
Jack Kerouac, whose parents hailed from Québec and whose ancestors included Indian men and women, is considered by some to be a Québec writer in exile. Kerouac is known to have said that he “refashioned English to fit French images,” and his quest for recognition as being indigenous to North America could be a metaphor for Québec. The only difference is that most of those French images are now well rendered in French, thanks to a vibrant publishing industry that has flourished since the late 1960s.
There was a time in the French-speaking province of Québec when illiteracy ran rampant and books and libraries were scarce and subject to moral censure. In those early days, one of the first Church-controlled publishing houses saw fit to issue a moral rating system for books. “For my part,” recalls Denis Vaugeois in his ode to books and publishing entitled L’amour du livre (For the love of books), “I would stop at the youth library every day and pile up on books for myself and some of the boarders at school; we devoured books. And I remember, I would always have to go to the principal’s office to have my reading material approved.”
This vast French-speaking territory located north of New England that receives, year in, year out, some 500,000 American tourists—some of whom visit its capital, Québec City; others, its metropolis, Montréal—has produced an impressive list of stars and international cultural successes. Children all over the world know Caillou, the star of the eponymous book series. Teenagers on all seven continents sing and dance to the music of Simple Plan; and the whole world can appreciate the success of Céline Dion, the Cirque du Soleil, Robert Lepage… not to mention the triumphs of the province’s movie industry, including the Oscar-winning Les invasions barbares (The Barbarian Invasions).
Every minute, a title is added—5150 rue des Ormes, I Hate Hockey, L’envers de l’assiette, À fleur de peau; every hour, a new author is categorized—Patrick Senécal, François Barcelo, Laure Waridel, Martine Latulippe; every day, a new publisher signs on—Alire, Baraka Books, Écosociété, Québec Amérique. The clock never stops ticking, the megabytes fill the cybernetic void. The e-book warehouse club is jumping.
Cooperation. Balance. Business. Erwan Leseul does business the way he leads his life: everything in its right place. Vice president of publishing at Les Éditions de l’Homme, Québec’s venerable publishing house, Erwan Leseul doesn’t own a bookcase: “My professional life is brimming with books. Once I have read a book, I don’t hold on to it, I give it to someone else or I abandon the book on a park bench so that it finds its way into someone else’s hands.”
If there were ever a case that illustrates the quality, diversity, and innovation of Québec publishing, it’s the Dictionnaire Visuel, or Visual Dictionary, published by QA International. Since its first French edition in 1986, the Visual Dictionary has been published in more than 35 languages, in more than 100 countries, selling more than eight million copies. What’s more, the world’s largest publishers, including Merriam-Webster, have become QAI’s international partners.
Contemplating Canada’s publishing industry, most publishers located outside the country think of Toronto, especially when it comes to English-language books. Few realize that there is a small group of independent, English-language publishers hailing from the one Canadian province usually associated with the French language: Québec.