A collection of monologues by Acadian author Antonine Maillet, published in 1971 and performed on stage as a one woman show. La Sagouine inspired many theatre productions and television shows. A symbolic character of Acadian culture, La Sagouine is well known throughout Canada and francophone Europe.
The adventure of La Sagouine, a collection of 16 monologues inspired by the life of Sarah Cormier who Antonine Maillet had come to know well through her grandson's memoirs, began in 1971. After having sent some of her writings to Radio-Canada, Maillet eventually offered to tape some of them herself. The broadcaster was hooked. Thus began work on the book that through its monologues tells of the simple life of La Sagouine, the daughter and wife of fishermen who became a charwoman. The book was published by Leméac in 1971, 1973, and 1974, by Grasset in 1976, and finally in pocket version by Leméac in 1986. The English translation appeared in 1979.
Theatre and Television adaptations
Although originally conceived for radio, La Sagouine gained fame in the theatre (see French-Language Theatre; Acadian Theatre). It was first presented in Acadia, and after a resounding success at the Dominion Drama Festival in Saskatoon, the Théâtre du Rideau Vert agreed to mount the play for a single performance in October 1972. But, the audience, charmed by this unaffected woman who talked about the real things in life, decided otherwise!
The play, was subsequently adapted for television by the CBC French network in 1977. In 2006, Connexions Productions and its Acadian producer Phil Comeau, made a new television adaptation.
Through the years, Viola Léger was the only actor to interpret the role (in both English and French) of this character from Bouctouche, north of Moncton. Madame Léger portrayed La Sagouine in Canada, the United States and Europe. She played the role more than 2,000 times.
It would be impossible to present all of Antonine Maillet's monologues. If they were all pieced together they would make up a performance of about 11 hours with no logical sequence, so it is necessary to make selections from the texts each time the play is presented.
La Sagouine, the colourful Acadian woman whose real name we never know, speaks without fear in Chiac, her local language, about religion, of life's difficulties, of the rich and the poor, of justice, and becomes the voice of the people. She carries within herself "the riches of Acadia and its promises."
La Sagouine was such a hit that in 1992 a tourist park, Le Pays de la Sagouine, was opened in Bouctouche, N.B. Visitors could immerse themselves in the Acadian spirit and learn about the world of Antonine Maillet’s most celebrate character. The park has actors in period costumes, music, dances and dinner theatre. On average, more than 60,000 visitors tread the soil of Bouctouche to learn more about the Acadian people and their history.
Through the years, La Sagouine became a spokesperson for Acadia, proudly contributing to the spread of Acadian literature.