Marguerite Primeau was born in Saint Paul, Alberta on May 10, 1914. She taught in rural schools in an era when young teachers were billeted with local families. She lived in France and Italy before returning to Canada where she received the first Masters of Arts in French from the University of Alberta. At the university she was particularly influenced by Dr. F.M. Salter. She first came to Vancouver in 1954. She later became Associate Professor Emerita of the UBC French department, having lived on the West Coast for more than 25 years. As an under-heralded five-time novelist, Primeau died at age 97 in Vancouver, at Vancouver General Hospital, on October 29, 2011. Her literary executor in Alberta is Pamela Sing.

Having written her novels in French, Primeau had little recognition in the English writing community until Margaret Wilson translated her fourth novel, Sauvage Sauvignon. It was launched in its English version as Savage Rose at the Paris International Book Fair in the spring of 1999. Memories of a fairtytale childhood are the basis for Savage Rose, winner of the Prix Champlain for the best novel written in French in North America (1986). In the book, when Maxine is five years old in Alberta, her father is like 'a magic lantern', like a prince who holds the key to a world of magic. "Sauvageon, do you see that wheat?"; he asks...The ears are rippling gently, like white horses on an endless golden sea."; But when Maxine is eight, her mother dies while pregnant with a boy-and her father breaks his promise never to re-marry. Maxine loses her trust and her ability to see fields as 'golden seas'. "I finally understood that the impossible didn't exist in this world, that the prosaic prevailed over the poetic, that the moon was just another star."; Maxine becomes a 'savage rose'. Feeling betrayed, she takes on a life of revenge. Much later, facing estrangement from an adored father who made her unable to love, she comes to terms with her disillusionment with life while surveying her past from her retreat on Galiano Island. "Indeed it will take more than a Freud or a Jung to plumb the depths of this muddied well,"; Primeau writes. "Besides, doesn't the patient always lie to the doctor after lying to himself?";


Dans Le Muskeg (Montreal: Fides, 1960)
Maurice Dufault, sous-directeur (Editions des Plaines, 1983)
Sauvage Sauvageon (Editions des Plaines, 1984)
Le Totem (Editions des Plaines, 1988)
Ol' Man, Ol' Dog et l'enfant (Les Editions due Ble, 1995)
Savage Rose (Ekstasis, 1999) 1-896860-41-9

[BCBW 2011] "Fiction" "Galiano" "French"