In September 1959, Maurice Duplessis is dying; his four days of agony become the pretext for drawing up a wacky panorama of the political climate of the time!
Le Plessis by Joël Bégin earned him the Robert-Cliche 2022 prize for the first novel a few weeks ago. A justified choice, because his story is based on a major part of the history of Quebec, but to play with jubilation.
The basis of the novel is known: on September 3, 1959, while visiting the mining town of Schefferville, Prime Minister Maurice Duplessis collapsed, victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. He remains unconscious and finally dies on the spot, on the night of September 6 to 7.
Inspired by this delay and by the location, remote and isolated, Bégin grafted mystery onto it. Duplessis, Grand Master of Quebec, had so many enemies, could it be that his death was unnatural?
Anyway Jos-D. Bégin, Minister of Colonization, wonders. To see clearly, he orders the police chief of Trois-Rivières, Duplessis' hometown, to put a man on it. And by anyone: his great-nephew Paul-Émile Gingras, a recruit as fresh as he is candid.
Gingras, however, has a friend the very resourceful Gérald Godin, who at the time dabbled in journalism, and a mother who pushed him to get started. Paul-Émile therefore takes the road to Quebec and then to the North Shore, to multiply the meetings and to cross the hypotheses, the crazy ones as the acceptable ones.
Who will march? Full of important names of the time: Pierre Laporte, Daniel Johnson, Jean Lesage, Jean-Charles Bonenfant, Paul Sauvé, Gérald Martineau, the bosses of Iron Ore, Alicja Poznanska (future wife Parizeau), a very young Denis Vaugeois ...
Without forgetting the faithful secretary Auréa Cloutier, a clever fly who holds the key to the enigma.
inspired by rumors
But will the mystery be dispelled? This is the charm of this iconoclastic novel where there is a lot of alcohol, a little sex, lots of dollars, jewels, adultery, beatings, gross shenanigans, obvious inventions, even a love potion... And, thanks to the novelist, humor everywhere!
Because if the death of Duplessis marks the end of the Great Darkness, there were many drifts under the appearances of a stuck society, and much resistance under the control exercised. The repeated attempts of Yum-Yum crisps to downgrade Duchess crisps, property of the director of the Provincial Police who imposed their sale everywhere, are an amusing illustration of this! There are many more.
Bégin says he was inspired by the rumors of the time to build his story. This systematically makes you want, after having launched a frank “Well let’s see! », to check if the anecdote told has a link with reality.
But the author has more than one trick up his sleeve. Under his pen, even impossible situations take on the appearance of verisimilitude!
It lives up to the myth that Duplessis has become, this devil of a man to whom we still refer today!