Legendary Acadian novelist, broadcaster, and scholar, Antonine Maillet C.C. will be presented with the 2016 Symons Medal, one of Canada’s most prestigious honours, in a ceremony at Confederation Centre on Friday, November 4 at 12:30 p.m. in the Homburg Theatre.
Maillet’s lecture in response to the awarding of the Symons Medal is entitled “Canada From Sea to Sea…To Sea. Le Canada d’une mer à l’autre… à l’autre.” Tickets for this important ceremony are still available via the Box Office. There is no cost to attend but a printed ticket is required for admission and the booking limit is two tickets per person. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office, via phone at 1(800) 565-0278, or online at confederationcentre.com.
Maillet’s most recent release, Lettres de mon phare, was published this fall by Leméac. Lettres de mon phare is a collection of reflections and reminiscences, written from her lighthouse writing studio in Bouctouche, looking out across the Northumberland Strait. The work’s title is a tribute to Alphonse Daudet’s Lettres de mon moulin, a favourite book from Maillet’s childhood.
Maillet is the foremost voice in literature for Acadian people. Her hometown of Bouctouche, New Brunswick, boasts “Le Pays de La Sagouine,” a theme park based on her award-winning La Sagouine (1971). The attraction celebrates the uniqueness of the Acadian dialect and history, and brings tens of thousands of tourists annually to a town of 2,500 people. La Sagouine is a series of dramatic monologues that broke new ground in Canadian theatre, selling over 100,000 copies. The title character, an old Acadian washerwoman, embodies Acadian language and culture.
The historic events of le Grand Dérangement are monumental in Maillet’s writing. In 1979, she won France’s most coveted literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for her novel, Pélagie-la-Charette. The award is France’s highest literary honour for literature and Maillet was the first ever North American to win it. Pélagie made Maillet famous in France, where it sold over a million copies.
Publisher Goose Lane Editions describes Pélagie as “…a funny, lyrical account of a daring Acadian widow’s journey home from exile.” Lead character Pélagie is a survivor of le Grand Dérangement of 1755. Ripped from her home and herded onto overcrowded American-bound sailing ships, she spends more than a decade working as a slave in the cotton fields of Georgia.
Fifteen years pass and Pélagie can bear no more. Inspired by her love of her family, the heroine sets off to take her people on a 3,000-mile trek back to their beloved homeland. Her single cart, pulled by six oxen, soon attracts scattered Cormiers and LeBlancs, Maillets and Légers, Landrys and Poiriers. This caravan of determined Acadians embarks on a ten-year journey up the Eastern seaboard to their childhood homes.
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 is the author of some fifty books, including novels, short stories, plays, and essays. She lives in Montréal, Québec.