He was born in Sainte-Justine, Quebec and studied at the Collège St-Louis in New Brunswick, the Université de Montréal in Quebec, and at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, where he received a doctorate in literature.
From 1994 to 1997, he served as head of the Canada Council. In 1998, he ran as an electoral candidate for the Quebec Liberal Party under Jean Charest, in the riding of Crémazie. He was defeated by 309 votes.
In 1991, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. From 1999 to 2004, Carrier was National Librarian of Canada. With Ian E. Wilson, the then National Archivist, he developed the process to unify the National Archive and National Library.
In 1992, Carrier's Prayers of a Very Wise Child (Prières d'un enfant très très sage) won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.
Also involved in theatre (having served as playwright at the Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde), Carrier has adapted La guerre, yes sir! and Floralie, où es-tu? for the stage. La guerre, yes sir! was produced as a play in 1970, was performed in English at the Stratford festival, and has been made into a film. Floralie, où es-tu? was performed by Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde in 1974. The trilogy consisting of these two novels and Il est par là, le soleil sold better in English than in French.
A quote from "Le chandail de hockey" ("The Hockey Sweater"), one of Carrier's contes, is reprinted on the back of the Canadian five-dollar bill. The story, about when Carrier was a young boy who orders a Montreal Canadiens sweater from the Eaton's catalogue, but receives a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey instead, is considered by many to be a literary allegory for the linguistic and cultural tensions between English and French Canadians, and is thus considered essential reading for anybody who seeks to understand the complex realities of linguistic and cultural identity in Canada. But it is also a much-beloved children's story in anglophone Canada without such complex overtones as it may have in a broader context. The National Film Board of Canada has made this story into an animated short film, narrated by Carrier in both the French and English versions.
Heartbreaks Along The Road (De l'amour dans la ferraille) is a work of magical realism - he pokes fun at political and religious figures, using ridiculous scenarios, and exaggerated personality characteristics, while telling the story from different characters' points of view. There are many levels to his satire and his writing is flowery and descriptive.
Sheila Fischman has won various awards for translation of his books into English.
Roch Carrier Elementary School in Kanata, Ontario is named after him.
Roch Carrier is the current president on the Board of Directors for the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada, or SEVEC.
- Jolis deuils: Petites tragédies pour adults — 1964
- La guerre, yes sir! — 1968 (translated as La Guerre, Yes Sir! — 1970) ISBN 0-88784-626-2
- Floralie, où es-tu ? — 1969 (translated as Floralie, Where Are You? — 1971)
- Il est par là, le soleil — 1970 (translated as Is It the Sun, Philibert? — 1972)
- Le deux-millième étage — 1973 (translated as They Won't Demolish Me! — 1974)
- Le jardin des délices — 1975 (translated as The Garden of Delights — 1978)
- Il n'y a pas de pays sans grand-père — 1977 (translated as No Country Without Grandfathers — 1981)
- Les Enfants du bonhomme dans la lune — 1979 (translated as The Hockey Sweater and other stories — 1979)
- Les voyageurs de l'arc-en-ciel — 1980 illustration & book design by François Olivier
- Céleste bicyclette — 1980 (translated as The Celestial Bicycle)
- La dame qui avait des chaînes aux chevilles — 1981 (translated as Lady with Chains)
- Le cirque noir — 1982
- Ne faites pas mal à l'avenir — 1984
- De l'amour dans la ferraille — 1984 (translated as Heartbreaks Along The Road)
- La fleur et autres personages — 1985
- Un chameau en Jordanie — 1988
- Enfants de la planète — 1989
- L'homme dans le placard — 1991
- Le cannot dans les nuages — 1991
- Prières d'un enfant très très sage — 1991 (translated as Prayers of a Very Wise Child)
- Fin — 1994 (translated as The End)
- Petit homme tornade — 1996 (translated as The Lament of Charlie Longsong)
- Prières d'un adolescent très très sage — 1998 (translated as Prayers of a Young Man)
- Une chaise — 1999
- Les moines dans la tour — 2004
- Roch Carrier in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Roch Carrier at the Internet Movie Database
- Roch Carrier at Library and Archives Canada