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LE DEBUTANT. Roman de moeurs du journalisme et de politique dans le province de Québec. Signed /Signé
Saint-Jean, QC:: La Compagnie de Publication Le Canada Français, 1914 Bessette, Arsène. LE DEBUTANT. Roman de moeurs du journalisme et de politique dans le province de Québec. Signed /Signé. Saint-Jean, QC: La Compagnie de Publication Le Canada Français, 1914. First edition / édition originale. 8vo., 259pp. Gilt-stamped & ruled half burgundy polished calf over brown, black & white marbled paper, like marbled endpapers. Ouvrage enrichi de nombreaux dessins de Busnel, de deux dessin [pages 78 et 125] et d'un portrait de L'auteur par St-Cgarles. A near fine or better example of this rare presentation binding. Signed & numbered [No. 6 of 26 signed copies in a total edition of 300; binding by Oliver Barwick] "No. 6 / Hommage de l'auteur / Arsène Bessette". Very Uncommon. [In 1914 Arsène Bessette had his only novel, Le débutant, published in Saint-Jean by La Compagnie de Publication Le Canada Français. It is not known if he had shown it to his friends, if the publisher of Le Canada Français had read the manuscript, or if Bessette himself sent the press release to La Presse, in which his work was describ ed as a novel of the soil and an interesting portrait of social customs with most of the action taking place in the countryside. What is known is that the book was dedicated to “fellow journalists, to the sincere and upright men in public life, [and] to all those who have lost their illusions, before or at the same time as their hair.” The dedication was a premonition, for the author would quickly lose his own illusions when the critics ignored his novel. Since Bessette was on the members list of the Masonic lodge L’Émancipation [see Adelstan de Martigny*] published in Le Devoir in 1910, not everyone would have been well disposed towards him, which doubtless explains why the publication of his novel – “the only work of fiction in Quebec literature inspired by Masonic ideas,” according to Roger Le Moine - met with a conspiracy of silence. The fact that the book did not come out in one of the major urban centers is not enough to account for the critics’ indifference; on the other hand, their lack of interest may have discouraged Bessette from publishing the two further volumes that were announced when Le débutant appeared. What is the novel about? Paul Mirot, the hero of the story, and his introduction to journalism, to the world of letters, and to love, was probably a projection of the author. Indeed, Paul has much in common with his creator, for, like Bessette, he is determined, courageous, witty, and intelligent. These qualities led the owner of Le Populiste to hire Paul as a journalist. Soon appreciated by both his employers and his readers, he also wins the heart of Simone Laperle, the beautiful and wealthy cousin of his best friend, Jacques Vaillant. Having become his mistress, the young woman introduces him to society. In partnership with Vaillant, Mirot founds a newspaper, in which he denounces the rigidity of society. He is also engaged in writing a novel that deals with the dangers of nationalistic ideology in literature. The newspaper is censured for its supposedly revolutionary ideas and ceases publication. Mirot’s novel is banned and he loses his job at the newspaper where he is then working. In addition, the death of Simone closes his love life. The novel ends in complete failure, yet the hero remains confident about the future, while attaching no importance to the past. Contrary to what literary critics would assert for many years, Bessette himself did not lose his job at Le Canada français when Le débutant was published, nor was the novel condemned by the archbishop. The writer remained on the staff of Le Canada français until the end of 1917, when he moved to Montreal to work for Le Pays and La Presse. In 1920 he became an inspector for the Montreal Tramways Commission. Arsène Bessette died suddenly on 21 June 1921 while visiting a friend. Notices of his death appeared in several newspapers, but Le Canada français, where he had worked for more than 15 years, had only a short article on the life of this writer who had dreamt of becoming famous but whose passing went unremarked. Yet Bessette’s only book, which was well written and carefully researched with regard to the political situation in the province, was distinctly superior to the other Québécois novels written by his generation. As well, by exploring the theme of free love, it anticipated Jean-Charles Harvey*’s Les demi-civilisés, which would cause a scandal when it came out in 1934. Aurélien Boivin - Dictionary of Canadian Biography . Signed by Author. First Edition.
      [Bookseller: TBCL The Book Collector's Library]
Last Found On: 2013-07-26           Check availability:      Biblio    

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