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Antonine Maillet: 'Do you have any stories?'

"I have avenged my ancestors," said author Antonine Maillet in 1979 with the publication of her book Pélagie-la-Charrette. Maillet broke new ground and became the voice of disenfranchised Acadians. She would tell the sad tale of the Acadian expulsion in the 18th century. She would also write about mothers, a washerwoman named la Sagouine, bootleggers, fishermen, dreamers — struggling to exist alongside the English majority. CBC Archives explores the career of Acadian author Antonine Maillet.

Antonine Maillet has always been in search of a good story. At age three, she would survey the neighbourhood, asking, "Do you have any stories?" At first she was appeased with fairy tales. But as she grew older she learned the personal histories of disenfranchised Acadians -- tales she would later draw from when she penned her famous novels Pélagie-la-Charrette and La Sagouine. In this CBC Television clip, Acadia's favourite daughter celebrates a warm homecoming and discusses the muse of home. 
• Antonine Maillet was born on May 10, 1929, in Bouctouche, N.B.
• Maillet studied at the Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie in Moncton and the University of Moncton. She later completed graduate work at the Université de Montréal and Université Laval.
• Maillet is championed for creating Acadian literature on her own. Before Maillet's first novel, Pointe-aux-Coques, was published in 1958, Acadian history had largely been passed down through storytelling.

• Maillet also enjoyed great success with her novel and play La Sagouine, a tale of an elderly washerwoman who describes her difficult life as a fisherman's wife, a charwoman and an ex-prostitute.
• In this CBC Television clip, Maillet is welcomed to Le Pays de la Sagouine theme park, which opened in 1992. Tourists may wander the park, structured as a village, and sample Acadian theatre, music, comedy and dance productions.

• With no specific political or geographic boundaries, "Acadia" refers to the French communities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

• In 1604, settlers from France crossed the ocean to establish communities along Canada's east coast in present day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, known as l'Acadie. More immigrants came over the next few years to develop the fertile lands. Tension mounted as France and Britain each made territorial claims on this same stretch of land. Britain assumed control of the region with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that it signed with the French.

• After the Treaty of Utrecht, conflict abounded between the British powers and the French citizens in Acadia. Fearing a potential rebellion and union with the nearby French forces, British authorities demanded that the Acadians pledge an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Wanting to remain neutral in the British-French struggle for land, the Acadians resisted swearing allegiance to the British but finally agreed. Unsure of their loyalty, the British forces deported or imprisoned the Acadians between 1755 and 1762. This is known as the Grand Dérangement, the Great Expulsion.

• It is estimated that 7,000 to 11,000 people were deported from the Acadian region to the southern United States. Approximately 3,000 others escaped to P.E.I., Cape Breton, or New France.

• Some Acadians returned to the region following the Seven Years' War that decisively terminated any French interests or authority in the Maritimes and New France. The Acadians felt that they would no longer be caught between the two warring interests of Britain and France and could at last return to their homeland. But when they returned, the Acadians found that land had already been settled, forcing them to move up to the north shore of the coast of what is today New Brunswick.

• For more on the history of the Acadians, please visit the clip Expulsion and Exile from the topic The 'Other Revolution': Louis Robichaud's New Brunswick.  
Medium: Television
Program: Adrienne Clarkson Presents
Broadcast Date: Dec. 29, 1992
Guest(s): Antonine Maillet
Host: Adrienne Clarkson
Duration: 10:48

Last updated: June 11, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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