In a three-page memo sent to all of Quebec’s regional public health directors on December 16, Assistant Health and Social Services Minister Marie-Ève Bédard warns against any promotion, mention or school activities dealing with the young adult horror/supernatural novel Le garçon les pieds à l’envers (“The Boy with Inverted Feet”), posthumously published in October by popular Quebec author François Blais, a Governor General award-winner who committed suicide last May.
The book had been selected as one of the year’s top ten by both Le Soleil and Métro, and was praised in Le Nouvelliste, Le Journal de Montréal, La Presse, Les Libraires and Télé-Québec.
According to Bédard’s memo, the book “repeatedly makes explicit references to suicide and to means of achieving it.” Suicides are treated like “games and challenges” and “no mention is made of the importance of asking for help. [...] Reading this novel could affect vulnerable youths [as] they could notably ape suicidal behaviors. Even in the case of fiction, the risks of identification are real.” (Our translation)
Similar warnings have been issued in the past regarding Yan England’s film 1:54 and the U.S. TV series 13 Reasons Why. Publisher Fides has since added a warning on its website and announced that a notice will be inserted in the books themselves, but sees the “biased” directive as “an act of censorship which is harmful to the author’s work, the reputation of his publisher and ultimately, his readers. [It] focuses on a single aspect, out of context and severed from the story’s humanist approach, thereby overshadowing its inspiring, positive and constructive aspects.” (Our translation)
Olivier Bossé and Thomas Laberge report in Le Soleil (in French):
www.lesoleil.com/2022/12/29/la-sante-met-en-garde-contre-le-dernier-roman-de-francois-blais-qui-parle-de-suicide-3f071f40dbfd6523fc1c480ede30d8cc (reprised in Le Quotidien, La Tribune, Le Droit, Le Nouvelliste and La Voix de l’Est)
Radio-Canada reports (in French):
Key addition: Librarian Audry Martel questions the government’s assessment and adds “This is not a book that promotes suicide, nor does it provide means to do it or banalize this action.”
Léa Carrier reports in La Presse (in French):
The Book and Periodical Council was formed in 1975 as the Book and Periodical Development Council to provide a venue for members to discuss industry issues, address mutual concerns and undertake projects for the benefit of Canadian writing and publishing.