Roger Lemelin (1919–1992) was born in working-class Quebec City. He published eight novels and numerous short stories and essays and won several awards for his writing. Lemelin adapted his second novel, Les Plouffe, into the popular CBC-TV show The Plouffe Family, which ran from 1953 to 1959 in French and English.
The Town Below
The Town Below changed the face of Québécois literature.
The Town Below takes place in St. Joseph Parish of Quebec City’s Saint-Sauveur suburb. Saint-Sauveur is a parochial and provincial place where narrow piety and corruption can be found in every corner, and Denis and Lise, two adolescents in love, scandalize the town with their affair. Scheming politicians and clergymen and grasping social climbers mix with salt-of-the-earth citizens in a rough-and-tumble satiric assault on pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec mores and attitudes.
The Town Below won the Prix David and the Prix de la langue française. Lemelin was also awarded Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships. A bestseller in Quebec when it originally appeared, The Town Below has been called the "pioneer novel of working-class Quebec" and exploded, with great controversy, the smothering social and religious strictures prevalent among postwar Québécois. The novel was first published in English by Reynal & Hitchcock in 1948.
The historical aspects of The Town Below, along with Lemelin’s cast of characters, offers the new reader an enchanting way to learn about a Canada of long ago.
Michael Gnarowski co-edited The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada, compiled The Concise Bibliography of English Canadian Literature, and edited the Critical Views on Canadian Writers series for McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Gnarowski is professor emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa.