“A1.1 Réjean Ducharme’s library”: Réjean Ducharme stripped

On his desk, he had left the dictionaries open, in French, in English, in Italian. Like he had gone for a coffee and was about to come back.

This is how Monique Bertrand, Monique Jean and Jacinthe Martel found the office that the writer Réjean Ducharme occupied, in the house on rue Quesnel, shortly after his death, in 2017. Claire Ducharme, his wife, was she- even died a year earlier. And since then, Ducharme found comfort in the verses of Baudelaire, says Monique Bertrand. “He always referred to Baudelaire. For him, Baudelaire’s texts were fundamental texts. He said there weren’t enough beautiful words to describe the feelings he had after Claire passed away, “she said.

Today, the three women are signing the descriptive inventory of Réjean Ducharme’s library, which they reconstitute, book by book, exactly in the state in which they found it at that time, between his worktable, the shelves in his office, books piled up on the windowsills and in his bedside bookcase, or scattered around the house. This is all published under the title A1.1 Réjean Ducharme’s library, at Nota Bene.

There are 1,800 books and discs annotated, dedicated or cut, with worn or torn covers, which are listed there. Preserved over the years or downloaded into the computer, they bear witness to the culture and curiosity of the writer with fragmented interests, always open to the outside, despite his absolute desire to stay away from the public spotlight.

“It’s like getting into his head,” says Monique Bertrand.

Highlighting the introduction to the book, we find this quote from the novel Children by Ducharme. “She liked books like they were crowded. “

Self-taught, the writer, who had made a 12e year, had eclectic tastes. Culture, philosophy, language, flora, politics were found jumbled up on the shelves, where Céline rubs shoulders with Marie-Claire Blais, Freud, Camus, Émile Nelligan and Lucien Francœur. Réjean Ducharme did not keep any of his own works there.

“I saw how reading, living and writing were closely linked at home,” says Monique Bertrand. She and Monique Jean both knew Réjean Ducharme well, with whom they were neighbors for several years. In a foreword to the book, Monique Bertrand tells a little about these years of neighborhood, Réjean and Claire’s cats, Ali and Baba, and their dog Blaze. “Claire Richard, who was an actress, read to Ducharme daily. It’s a habit they’ve had for a long time. I know she read him the Thousand and one Night.

Taking on his alias Roch Plante, Réjean Ducharme also went to the workshop, tinkering with one of these Trophoux, these collages and montages of objects often found in the street, of which he made sculptures. In some books, as in The twilight of the Gods, by Richard Wagner, Réjean Ducharme “cut out letters for the titles of his Trophoux”, we read in this inventory.

A craftsman

“He uses everything, he fires with all kinds of wood, with all materials. In other words, his creativity directs him wherever he wants, with great freedom, total freedom, ”says Monique Bertrand.

Réjean Ducharme’s library in that of an “artisan” rather than that of a “worldly literate intellectual”, she writes elsewhere.

“His office and library contained enormous traces of life, as if the inorganic, inanimate material of books was becoming extremely alive in his home. He left traces, on the covers of the books where he left his cup of coffee, there were lots of objects on the shelves […] When we browse his library, we walk in his footsteps, in his footsteps. “

The book is aimed at researchers and amateurs. But in 2022, the Musée des civilizations de Québec plans to reconstruct the entire office and studio of Réjean Ducharme identically, including the library, to allow the public to visit it.

Among other treasures, we find scribbled, on a torn page of the book Rimbaud and the Municipality, from Pierre Gasca, the letter that La Toune wrote to André and Nicole, at the very end of his novel Winter by force.

And on the cover page of the book Live ! Live ! by Marie-Claire Blais, we also find the dedication of Blais, who was also a young author in 1969, and who offers Ducharme to present it to a New York publisher.

A1.1 Réjean Ducharme’s library

Jacinthe Martel, Monique Bertrand and Monique Jean, Nota Bene, Montreal, 2020, 306 pages

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