June 23, 2020 0 Comments

Antonine Maillet, PC CC OQ ONB FRSC is an Acadian novelist, playwright, and scholar. Acadian Avenger · La Sagouine, Acadian tourist attraction · Antonine Maillet – The Possibilities Are Endless (Trailer), National Film Board of Canada. La Sagouine is a play written by New Brunswick author Antonine Maillet that tells the story of la Sagouine, an Acadian cleaning lady from rural New Brunswick. On Île-aux-Puces, at Bouctouche, the stories of author Antonine Maillet will transport you to the traditional Acadia that she recreated around her most famous .

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La Sagouine is a cultural and artistic treasure – The Globe and Mail

Goose Lane Editions, Literary translation is a risky endeavour. Translating an iconic work written in a dialect so specific that it requires a lexicon in its original language is unimaginably perilous.

Because the presumed reader of this translation is an Anglophone who has little-to-no familiarity with the original text, I hope to point out ways in which the translation is faithful, but also what is missing so that the reader may have a better understanding of what was lost.

Anytime a translator takes on the task of transforming a text from one language to another, there is a process of cultural transfer wherein the characteristic features of the original text must be digested and re-shaped into something else, which inevitably loses some of the uniqueness of the original work.

Antonine Maillet

In this case, the original text was written in Acadian French, a combination of 16 th century French words, some First Nations influences, and the emergence of a new vocabulary — often inspired by marine terminology — to describe the mallet and geographical environment of post-Expulsion Acadians in New Brunswick.


However, even if that voice is heartbreakingly disembodied in the new language and in this case, the language of the conquerorthe only alternative is silence. This is not a criticism of the translation, but rather an acknowledgment of a moral dilemma facing all translators. This moral dilemma can be expressed as finding the right balance between preserving the authenticity of a text and ensuring readability for the target audience.

Furthermore, the translation of a text in a very specific dialect such as this one must straddle the fine line of providing enough linguistic markers in the text to represent an informal and believable level of language appropriate for the characters of La Sagouinebut avoid the temptation of giving this new voice a slang that resonates with a different linguistic group.

In other anntonine, la Sagouine and her people cannot speak in a rural Anglophone New Brunswick accent and still remain believable. What the uninitiated reader must also understand is that this fictional character is only fictional in the strictest sense of the word.

She also comes with the same pitfalls — the dangers of stereotyping and folklorization must be underlined. Furthermore, la Sagouine excels at pointing out social inequality and the hypocrisy of church and politicians alike, but does not offer any answers and in fact, has been considered by some to be far too resigned to her fate.

Despite all of this, she has been celebrated and adored to this day for her dry wit as well as her subtle, yet sharp intelligence. As my own grandmother who, like Antonine Maillet, grew up in Bouctouche and could tell me the names of all of her characters in real life would say, there are some who are intelligent and some who are smart.

La Sagouine falls into the latter category. Wayne Grady had to understand all of this and carefully consider these facts when he undertook this ambitious translation. This meant smoothing out a distinct dialect in one language to a slightly more standardized expression in the other without losing any of the content. While some authenticity is lost, there is something gained in this approach.


As the form loses some of its dialectal authenticity, content is privileged and the reader tends to focus more on what la Sagouine has to say than how she says it. Her research focuses on Acadian literature, culture, and identity.

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About The Acadiensis Blog The Acadiensis Blog is a place for Atlantic Canadian historians to share their research with both a scholarly and general audience. We welcome submissions on all topics Atlantic Canadian. If you are interested in contributing to the blog, please contact Acadiensis Digital Communications Editor Corey Slumkoski at corey. This entry was posted in Book Review.

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