Current Issue Excerpts
Anyone familiar with Longfellow's famous poetic tribute to the Acadians knows the basic story of the great Dérangement
of 1755, when these tough and resilient people were uprooted and cruelly scattered - some as far away as Louisiana. The burning of Acadian farmsteads, the forced separation of families, the loss at sea of thousands of innocent lives - all these terrible events are faithfully recorded. But few are aware that the causes of this tragedy were not as simple as the New England poet would have us believe. Like the rest of Acadia's long history, the real story is fascinating and full of surprises.
Bouctouche is a small town at the mouth of the Bouctouche River in New Brunswick. It is also the summer home of Antonine Maillet. I had just translated Maillet's short novel Christophe Cartier de la noisette, dit Nounours, and was about to embark on her monumental allegory Le Huitième jour, and I wanted to get the lay of the Acadian landscape. I had a literary sense of the Bouctouche area, but I wanted to see it and hear it for myself. I stopped outside a low brick building, one of those five-and-dime stores that sell cheap clothes and expensive souvenirs, including small Acadian flags - the French tricolore with a yellow Stella Maris in one corner. When I went up to the cash, I asked, in my best French, which house belonged to Antonine and received a long, friendly reply. To my complete astonishment I could not understand a word of it. I had entered a private realm, a kind of hidden valley that had its own customs, its own flag, and its own language. Some call this place the Republic of Madawaska, but for more than 350 years it has been known as the land of Acadia.
WAYNE GRADY's novel Emancipation Day was long-listed for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He lives near Athens, Ontario, with his wife, novelist Merilyn Simonds. "Acadia, Acadia!" is excerpted from Chasing the Chinook: On the Trail of Canadian Words and Culture.
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