At 93, Antonine Maillet wanted to decide between her inheritance by writing my will, a work that pays tribute to all the characters who told their native Acadia and made it a monument of Acadian literature. We met her at her house in Montreal.
Posted yesterday at 6:00 am
He welcomes us with a smile on his face, with sparkling eyes. “Go in with the wrong foot and make a wish,” she tells us as we walk through the front door frame. An old Acadian belief that he revives with evident pleasure every time he receives someone for the first time.
She may not be very tall, as she likes to remember, the writer exudes an irresistible magnetism. In her quiet living room, downtown traffic a distant background noise, she faces, from her easy chair, a magnificent grand piano. “I love the piano. The whole family played it, but the others were better than me. I would tell stories,” she recalls with a slight quiver in her voice.
Even today, Antonine Maillet never tires of telling stories. And we don’t get tired of hearing him recount the fate of this Academy that still inhabits it with such intensity, despite the last 50 years of it in Montreal. I am more Acadian than ever. All my books are about Acadia,” she says.
A tribute to his characters
Within my will, Antonine Maillet is dedicated to distributing her assets, she who does not have “legitimate offspring”. To whom will he bequeath her inheritance? The answer is imposed. “The writer’s mission is the same as that of a mother who brings children into the world. Me, I gave birth to a few hundred children: my characters. I owe them everything. And they are stronger than me. »
Thus he converses with them in his book, in French mixed with Acadian. There’s Jeanne de Valois, Mariaagelas, Pierre Bleu, Don l’Orignal… “All those people who influenced me and forced me, in a way, to stay with Acadia,” he says. Pélagie-la-Charrette, above all, the one that earned her the Goncourt in 1979, and to which she bequeaths a town that has progressed. “I gave it to him as a gift, in my will, of this country that she did not know. Now we have a university; she would be surprised to know that. »
But the first to whom he owes everything is La Sagouine.
I became a well-known writer with La Sagouine. It was she who introduced me. And I’m so proud of [ce livre] because that is what the unique work is, in a certain sense. anyone could write pelagia. But not this one. You had to have experienced him, seen him, known his language.
“If La Sagouine was important, it is because it said things. It’s not me who’s important, it’s her. I recreated from things she had heard. These things, he had heard while associating with these people “from under the hunt,” in his hometown of Bouctouche, New Brunswick, when he lived “halfway” between Canada’s richest man, oil giant Kenneth Colin Irving, and the poorest in Canada. woman – La Sagouine.
“The others looked down on them, but I didn’t like people looking down on them because there were people from the bottom of the hunt at school. There was one named Katchou. She was the most interesting in the class. She answered the lady all crooked, just to make her laugh. And she amused me that she was a downstairs girl answering. »
” But The Saguineshe said, I’m sure she couldn’t have written it in Acadia. She was too close. I needed perspective, but most of all I needed to feel free. Because writing it was a big risk: “One of two things: either we laughed, or we kept awake. The rest is history.
At the end of July he will be in Bouctouche to give a speech on the occasion of the 30me anniversary of the Pays de la Sagouine, the village that pays homage to its famous heroine. “The big deal,” she murmurs, rejoicing in anticipation to be able to speak, she who never prepares her speeches and will use this moment to promote Acadia.
Even today, the writer continues to take risks when writing. “I am 93 years old; If I can’t take the risk at that age, at what age will I take the risk? she asks, amused. “A writer has rules. But the main rule is freedom within the rules. Risking what others have not done. To venture. And if the writer is not free and adventurous, he will not do anything new. »
indignant my will, we hope, for next fall or winter, a story where your characters from Radi, Nounours and Scapin face the giant Ovid-19. And since he cannot do without writing, he has meanwhile started a third book: floating thoughts — written in free verse. Sung, rhythmic and rhymed prose, fragments of which he proudly reads to us.
I let my thoughts float. When I finish a chapter, the last word of the chapter gives me inspiration for the next one. The time, the words, the Francophonie… It ends in Acadie. I have fun like this.
And without this arm in a cast, for six weeks – the law, moreover – this forced break in writing would never have been allowed.
“Writing for me is so fundamental. When they broke my arm, I said to myself: what am I doing? So I rest… a little, because my mind is still agitated. But maybe it will give me a new inspiration”, says Antonine Maillet.