The December Man (L'homme de décembre).


72 pages
ISBN 978-0-88754-595-5
DDC C812'.54




Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is Assistant Director of Libraries at the University of


Colleen Murphy is the recipient of a fistful of drama awards, including the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for this play.


Its particular relevance is underlined by the annual commemoration of the 1989 Montreal Massacre and all-too-frequent current events of public violence, but—make no mistake—this is an astounding work bound to remain in the active theatre repertoire for the sheer brilliance of its writing.


The story is that of the personal aftermath of the massacre visited upon Jean Fournier, one of the male students who escaped assassination, and his working-class mother and fatherall as helpless as he was on that fateful day. The lesson is the victims of Marc Lépine number far more than the nine tragically murdered women.


It is difficult to convey just how tightly written a script this is. First of all, the playwright has found in a changing architectural model of a high rise (“La Belle Tour penchée de Jean Fournier”), a visual metaphor for the gradual disintegration of the characters’ lives. Other subtler visual or physical metaphors are present as well: a piece of Jean’s pyjamas from when he was a child, used as a dust rag on the deteriorating structure of his model, for instance. But the coup de génie lies in the reverse chronology, 1992–1989. The effect is even more poignant—not to say shattering—than the same conceit in Pinter’s Betrayal. It is almost unbearable to witness each unfolding scene because we know exactly where it all will lead. Instinctively, we want to reach out to stop each human commonplace mistake, each well-meaning but miscalculated move, each inadvertent comment that cuts to the quick, and each failure to take the right step. There is not a superfluous word in the dialogue. The multilayered resonance of certain lines will take your breath away: “IT CAN NEVER BE FIXED,” “… they’re stuck, they’re stuck … I’m stuck inside that building.” Yet, despite a narrative that closely follows the reality of that watershed moment for one family, Murphy remains profoundly respectful of those who lived it.


Murphy, Colleen., “The December Man (L'homme de décembre).,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,