The Penniless Redeemer


341 pages
ISBN 0-920428-285-4





Translated by Ray Ellenwood

Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations


Renaissance man Jacques Ferron — doctor, politician, playwright, and multi-award winning novelist — is considered to be one of the greatest writers in Quebec today with good reason.

The Penniless Redeemer is Ferron’s most ambitious novel, a “para-historical” work that attempts the “demystification” of Quebec’s social, political, and cultural history. It is set in the controversial ‘30s and during the Duplessis regime.

Ferron juxtaposes reality with fiction and creates a clan of angels and devils to present his case. He gently mocks public figures, artists, politicians, and the Church. Poet Saint Dennys-Garneau searches for Eurydice in Hell; artist Borduas is in Purgatory with Cyrano de Bergerac; poet Frank Scott contacts a social disease and turns Quebecois; prelates gossip with God.

Ferron’s survey of social, political, and cultural relations in the ‘30s is a fascinating analysis of Quebec’s turbulent emotions, neuroses, and ambitions. It is also a highly amusing “debunking” of heroes from the collective past, heroes who often held the “Westmount point of view.”

Ray Ellenwood’s superb translation fully retains Ferron’s delightfully ironic and fun-loving style. The English reader is presented with not only a valuable lesson in Quebec’s history but also a truly rewarding romp through Jacques Ferron’s zany world of fact and fantasy.


Ferron, Jacques, “The Penniless Redeemer,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,