Broke City


95 pages
ISBN 0-919349-36-6





Translated by David Homel

Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations


Montreal-born Jacques Renaud is one of the feisty, angry, young men who grew up in the ferment of the ‘50s and ‘60s in urban Quebec and who fought for what they believed was every man’s right in society — the right to exist.

Broke City was first published in 1964 but only twenty years later did an English translation appear. An earlier translation, by Gerald Robitaille, cannot be traced.

Renaud’s explosive work presents a raw sequence in the lives of a segment of the “underbelly” of Montreal’s society. His characters speak “joual,” their own personal language, a language disdained and unacceptable to the “elite.” They eke out their daily bread in cigar factories, on welfare, or by trafficking in drugs. Their emotions are bare and worn close to the surface. Their bodies are bought and sold. These characters have no time to live; they are happy to survive.

Renaud’s style is filled with awesome tension, and his ability to master minute detail is astounding. His imagery is vivid and merciless, and his understanding of the human dilemma, profound.

David Homel’s excellent translation retains the drama and rhythm of the original. He has succeeded in crossing a difficult language barrier without loss of meaning or feeling.

Broke City is a valuable historical, social and dramatic document of a given time in Quebec’s urban history, many aspects of which still exist.

At the same time, Jacques Renaud has created a magnificent work of literary skill.


Renaud, Jacques, “Broke City,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,