Antonine Maillet: Talking Acadian
"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.
. Maillet catalogued some 700 archaic Acadian phrases in her 1970 doctoral dissertation at the Université Laval.
. Maillet has also translated from English to standard French Shakespeare's Richard III, The Tempest, and Hamlet; Ben Johnson's Bartholomew Fair; Tom Jones's The Fantasticks; and George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.
. "When I wrote Pélagie and La Sagouine, I had to create a written language that had never been written in my country. That language that was Rabelais's or Molière's was written by those authors, but it's not quite the same language that we have, because it evolved in a different country. We have an American French language. I had to figure out how I could handle that as a written language. I had to invent some kind of a syntax, a style. That was my originality, in a sense." - Antonine Maillet, Contemporary Authors Online
. "Us, we ain't educated, 'n we don't talk fancy, so we don't know how to put it. The priest, him, when he preaches, he talks like the doctor's missus, shellin' out some big words he can turn into a mean sentence. They call that literature. Us, we ain't never seen a speck of literature in all our lives. We talk with the words we have in our mouths 'n we don't go too far to find 'em. We got 'em from our fathers that got 'em fr'm their forefathers. Fr'm mouth to ear, you could say." - the title character of Maillet's La Sagouine, translation by Luis De Céspedes.
. The difference between Québécois French and Acadian French is so pronounced that many francophones have difficulty reading Maillet's works. The Globe and Mail's Ray Conlogue recalled searching for a dictionary of Acadian French after Pélagie-la-Charrette was published. "You are trying to read Pélagie-la-Charrette, aren't you?" the clerk in a bookstore asked him. "Give up. I am francophone myself, and I had to stop by page 30. Bonne Chance!" - in the Globe and Mail, Dec. 8, 1979.
. Pélagie-la-Charrette has been translated into English, Slovak, and Bulgarian.
. Maillet offers this advice to ambitious writers who try to take on her work: "When I speak to translators, I say, 'Try to give it an ocean flavour, a sea flavour, a salty flavour.'" She explains, in the National Post (April 7, 2004) that the rhythm of the ocean is replicated in the cadence of Acadian French.
Program: This Country in the Morning
Broadcast Date: Nov. 23, 1973
Guest(s): Antonine Maillet
Host: Peter Gzowski
Photo: Photos courtesy of Communications New Brunswick.
Last updated: March 29, 2012
Page consulted on August 21, 2012
All Clips from this Topic
Is it moi or moâ in Acadian French? Maillet explains the...
Maillet discusses the differences in Canada's francophone community.
Maillet discusses how the Prix Goncourt will finally bring Acadian rec...
Antonine Maillet is a celebrity in Europe. Why is she a virtual unkno...
Maillet reads from her acclaimed novel.
Antonine Maillet discusses the long journey from the United States to ...
Antonine Maillet discusses her prize-winning novel and Acadian resilie...
A Montreal street is named in Maillet's honour.
At age three, author-to-be Antonine Maillet wanders her neighbourhood ...
Maillet praises Canada's only official bilingual province.
Maillet tells a tale about the bonuses of bilingualism.
"I have avenged my ancestors," said author Antonine Maillet in 1979 wi...