Author and journalist Michel Jean was a finalist for two literary awards in France this year for his 7th novel, Kukum. He won his first one yesterday, the France-Quebec Literary Prize, which has been recognizing the excellence of a contemporary Quebec novel since 1998.
The other two finalists were Your death to me, by David Goudreault, and Waterfowl, by Gabrielle Filteau-Chiba.
Kukum, launched in Quebec in the fall of 2019 at Libre Expression and in France at the beginning of the year, tells the story of her great-grandmother, Almanda Siméon, an orphan who falls in love at the age of 15 with a young Innu and who integrates with the Aboriginal community.
His writings certainly appeal to Europeans. Michel Jean confirms that Kukum is being reprinted in France, in addition to being among the ten finalists for the Jacques-Lacarrière Prize, the winner of which will be known at the end of the year.
For Michel Jean, it is much more than the unusual story of his great-grandmother who seduced the European jury.
“There is an interest in France for indigenous issues, he notes, but it is not the folk question that interests them. It is that of the self-determination of peoples. “
Michel Jean was particularly touched on Tuesday to receive this award, which will allow him to make a promotional tour throughout France.
“I’m a complete stranger there,” he says. It’s not because they think I’m a good TV reporter that they are interested in my book, it’s because they really liked the text. And that’s a personal story. It touches me even more. […] And that also means that the young people who are in the regions, in the community, see that their history is important enough to cross the ocean. “
His next novel will be published in the fall of 2021. He will still draw inspiration from his roots, but from the perspective of urban natives. In the meantime, in the spring, he will launch a second collection of short stories, written with a collective of about fifteen native authors.