Renowned Acadian novelist, playwright, broadcaster, and scholar, Antonine Maillet, C.C. is the winner of the 2016 Symons Medal, one of Canada’s most prestigious honours, Confederation Centre of the Arts announced today
Confederation Centre – Canada’s national memorial to the founding of the country – presents the Symons Medal each year to recognize a distinguished person who has made an exceptional contribution to Canadian life. Previous recipients of this award include His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; His Excellency Governor General David Johnston; former Prime Minister Paul Martin; President of the national Inuit organization, Mary Simon; broadcaster and environmental leader, David Suzuki; and former Quebec Premier, Jean Charest.
Born in 1929 in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, Maillet is one of the most celebrated writers in Canadian literature. Her play La Sagouine (1971), which celebrates the rich, colourful, and distinctive culture of Canada’s Acadian people, has become a classic of French-language theatre in this country. Her 1979 novel Pélagie-la-Charette was the first work by a non-European to win the Prix Goncourt, France’s greatest literary prize. This story charts the triumphant return home of the Acadian people after the 1755 Expulsion, and made Maillet an overnight success in France, where it sold over a million copies.
Since the breakthroughs of La Sagouine and Pélagie-la-Charette, Maillet has been one of the most respected figures in French-language literature in Canada, publishing over 20 novels, numerous plays, and several translations (including French translations of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Bernard Shaw). Her remarkable body of writing, translated into numerous languages, is an immense contribution to literature in Canada and throughout the world, and makes her an unofficial but much-beloved, world-wide ambassador for the Acadian people.
In 1999, composer and lyricist Vincent de Tourdonnet brought Maillet’s Pélagie to Confederation Centre where the developing musical was workshopped. Pélagie-la-Charette became a successful musical produced in both French and English that toured several venues in Canada.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, CEO Jessie Inman, and Professor Tom Symons, for whom this lecture is named, we are elated to announce Antonine Maillet as the recipient of the 16th Symons Medal,” says Chairman of the Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust, Wayne Hambly. “Mme Maillet is a leading creative voice for Canada, a writer of great renown, and a global champion for Acadians everywhere. We welcome her return to Confederation Centre this fall.”
Maillet is a Companion of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the French Légion d’Honneur, a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres de France, a member of the Order of New Brunswick, and an Officer of the Order of Quebec. She has received over 20 literary awards and prizes, including the Governor General’s Award for Literature, and the Lorne Pierce Medal from the Royal Society of Canada. In 1992, she was appointed a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. From 1989 to 2001 she served as Chancellor of the Université de Moncton.
Maillet’s Symons Medal Ceremony will take place on Friday, November 4, 2016 in the Homburg Theatre. Tickets to attend the recipient’s medal ceremony and lecture will be made available through the Centre’s Box Office at a later date. For more information, please visit confederationcentre.com/symonsmedallecture and follow event updates on social media @confedcentre and via #Symons2016.
Since 2004, Confederation Centre has honoured 15 distinguished Symons Medalists. Held each fall to mark the 1864 meetings of the Fathers of Confederation, the medal ceremony creates a national platform for a prominent Canadian to discuss the nation’s current state and future prospects.