Born in Quebec City in 1939, Marie-Claire Blais has been a dominant figure in her country's literary landscape for more than 25 years. At twenty, she published her first novel, La Belle Bête, translated as Mad Shadows. In it, she analyzes with fierce lucidity the psychological motivations for a woman's hatred of her beautiful and simple-minded sister whom, in the novel's dénouement, she disfigures. While such violence and savagery are present in most of her novels and plays, they are never gratuitous, never complacent or exhibitionist. Her highly personal lyricism enables the writer to pass through the mirror of appearances and reveal hidden monstrosities.
While still young, her talents were recognized by, among others, the American critic Edmund Wilson, who was instrumental in her receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship. She was living in the United States when she wrote Une saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel (Grasset, 1965), translated as A Season in the Life of Emmanuel, for which she was awarded France's Prix Medicis. The impressive number of works that followed were produced at surprising speed: to date, some twenty novels have been published in France and in Quebec, all of them translated into English, as well as five plays and collections of poems. Marie-Claire Blais has spent extended periods of time in the United States, France and China. Her latest novel, Soifs (1995), translated at These Festive Nights (Anansi), received the Governor General's Award in 1996.