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The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous
"The failure of our educational system is the reflection of a failure, or at the very least, of the paralysis of thinking itself. No one dares to think in French Canada. At least no one dares to think out loud. The lack of serious dialogue in the province stigmatizes us in the most inexpiable manner" (translation).
Les insolences du Frère Untel (The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous), Montréal, Les Éditions de l'homme, 1960, p. 55.
A Cleric Castigates the Educational System in Quebec
The year 1960 was rich in events and the publishing of The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous ranked among these events. This satirical tract was considered as one of the triggers of the Quiet Revolution. It originated with a letter from a teacher in Chicoutimi, Brother Pierre-Jérôme – born Jean-Paul Desbiens --, to André Laurendeau, editor of the newspaper Le Devoir, in reaction to a short article that the latter had published on the quality of French. It was the beginning of a long correspondence between the two men that ended with the publication of Desbiens' book, under the alias Brother Anonymous. The Marist Brother denounced "joual" as a boneless tongue. Moreover, he squared off against the Department of Public Instruction and its system of social injustices that privileged the classical college, a veritable national reserve of sacerdotal vocations, and the overwhelming presence of religion.
The First Bestseller in Quebec
The Impertinences... sold more than 130 000 copies, 17 000 of which during the first ten days of sales, not to mention 15 000 additional copies in English. Despite its success with the public, the book was less well received by the clergy, who attempted in vain to halt its publication. Its author, forbidden to attend the book launch, was sent to Switzerland where he completed doctoral studies. The fate of his immediate superior was less fortunate: Brother Louis-Grégoire was forced into a lengthy retirement in Rome and then exiled to the United States. It was obvious that the "dollar" book by Brother Anonymous had had the effect of a bombshell in Quebec in the wake of the Duplessis era.