Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
Plays in print often lose much of their original dramatic tension and impact. Not so award-winning Acadian author Antonine Maillet’s La Sagouine.
La Sagouine is a poignant, witty, and satirical monologue delivered by a 72-year-old scrubwoman known as “La Sagouine” (the dirty lady). Her discourse describes the entire span of her life, a life of relentless poverty and misery. She is an optimist, regardless, counterbalanced by her references to her grouchy, opinionated, pessimist husband. She has survived on reheated pancakes and beans. She bore twelve children, of whom she could save only the three who were born during the warm strawberry season. Yet her views on life, death, the Church and its priests, creation, destiny, God, and the “Gov’ment” are philosophical, almost academic. Her only wish in life had been to live in a real house rather than a shack, where the winter tides would not come, knee high, into the kitchen and where it would be warm. Perhaps the “Risurrection” would provide a better life, she muses. Events like the Depression and World War II were a bonus. Relief packages and government cheques arrived. The “ecumenic” crash and the war reminded the world that some people had nothing to eat. Not for an instant is this brilliant work morbid. The excellent translation from the Acadian “argot” to English “dialect” retains every subtle nuance of the original text. A multitude of finely honed characters are brought to life through La Sagouine’s stream of consciousness. A high level of humour is maintained by means of irony, caricature, and malapropism. The work is a valuable and sophisticated treatise on society in general and a segment of Acadian life in particular. Well-structured and smooth-flowing, “La Sagouine” should be required reading for students and teachers; it will be a moving experience for all readers of fine literature.