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Chercher L'Acadie
by Laurel Boone

In the Maritimes, French?language publishing is an adventurous as well as active affair Two hundred years ago, the Acadians didn't all allow themselves to be kicked out of the Maritimes, and then sonic of the toughest deportees came back. Today their descendants are a force to be reckoned with, not just in Politics, but in literary matters as well. There had been a few Acadian writers who published their hooks in Quebec and France, but until 18 years ago there was no Acadian general publisher. In the early 1970s, a rebirth of cultural pride coincided with a wave of enthusiasm for poetry. Readings and competitions became so popular that in the Moncton area one call for poems attracted over 200 Submissions. The stunned organizers, one of whom was Melvin Gallant, realized that even the most mature of these poets Could he Published ?? if at all ?? only in Quebec or by the poets themselves; few Would reach the audience so obviously clamouring for a body of Acadian literature. So Gallant and some fellow enthusiasts founded Editions d'Acadie. In 1972, the press released its first hook, Raymond Leblanc's Cri de terre; in 1974 it expanded into prose; in 1975 it included La Cuisine traditionnelle en Acadie in its list; and in 1976, it brought out its first textbook, Atlas d'Acadie. Why would a press founded on literary ideals decide to publish cookbooks and schoolbooks' If Gallant Could have gazed into a reliable crystal ball at the time, he might have answered, "For the money." Recipes are, of Course, at the heart of La Cuisine traditionnelle en Acadie, but the hook is really about how Acadians have eaten well in spite of poverty and isolation. Sales have climbed past 17,000, and Goose Lane will tap the anglophone market with an English edition next year. The spirit that demanded Acadian poetry also fanned the belief that French schools in the Maritimes should use, not simply books in French, or even Quebecois books, but Acadian books. Atlas d'Acadie, commissioned by the New Brunswick Department of Education, set Editions d'Acadie on a firm economic foundation. When the Council of Maritime Premiers decided to make a Maritime Studies course compulsory at the Grade 9 or 10 level, Editions d'Acadie secured the contract for the French textbook. After two years of punishing work, the press issued Les Maritimes: Trois provinces a decouvrir in November 1987. That one hook tripled the press's budget and forced it to reorganize its whole operation. The book itself is so good that the proposed translation of an English text for French immersion classes was scrapped in its favour, and the general public has bought over 2,500 copies. Today, a steady stream of textbooks helps to support Editions d'Acadie in what its managing editor, Marcel Ouellette, sees as its primary function of literary publishing. Each year, the press releases 10 or 12 new literary titles, and, on average, three reprints and five textbooks, making it the most active Frenchlanguage general publisher outside Quebec. But it isn't the only Acadian publishing house. The Association des Ecrivains Acadiens of Moncton started Editions Perce?Neige 12 years ago to publish first books by poets. For a time, Michel Henry, of Michel Henry Editeur, operated Perce?Neige as well as his own business, but the Association des Ecrivains has taken over Perce? Neige once again. In his five years of operation, Michel Henry brought out about 23 books, including six plays, a cookbook, and a book on quilts, as well as poetry, fiction, and history. He is proud that one of his titles, Robert Pichette's Pour l'honneur de mon prince..., a book of historical sketches first prepared for radio, won the Prix France?Acadie this year. In Edmundston, New Brunswick, the two?year?old Editions Marivie has published about 10 non?fiction titles, mainly by local authors; Les Editions Quatre Saisons has brought out some 14 literary titles in four years; and, somewhat less formally, Editions Lavigne publishes popular poetry. In Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Les Editions Lescarbot has been in operation for about 15 years, adding one or two local history or textbook titles to its list annually. Cyril Leblanc, the publisher, doesn't expect to find an Antonine Maillet among his authors. Instead, he wants to get books by local authors into the hands of local readers, an attitude shared by the founders of Editions d'Acadie. Today, Marcel Ouellette welcomes the competition from these smaller presses. The more publishers there are, he believes, the more freedom each has to express its own philosophy, and the more precisely each can define its own identity. With companions in its field, Editions d'Acadie no longer has to serve exclusively nationalistic ideals, and its cultural and financial security gives it the freedom to take advantage of whatever the anglophone literary world may have to offer. Ouellette plans to publish a series of novels by anglophone Maritime writers in translation, starting with the French edition of Nights Below Station Street, by the New Brunswick writer David Adams Richards, due to come out next spring. The idea that anglophone and francophone cultures in the Maritimes have something in common annoys certain elements on both sides, but Editions d'Acadie and Goose Lane manage to practice a fair amount of neighbourliness. Five years ago, they cooperated to publish French and English versions of A Literary and Linguistic History of New Brunswick. The book was not an unqualified success, but it was a landmark in treating both traditions together. Now the two presses are, working on another joint project. Fred Cogswell and Jo?Anne Elder, two UNB professors, found they could not teach Acadian poetry because there was no suitable anthology. They decided to fill the gap themselves, and Goose Lane agreed to publish the result. Cogswell and Elder gathered the poems for the book, and Raoul Boudreau wrote an introduction. The editors translated the poems and introduction into English and submitted their translations to the authors for approval. On November 17, Editions d'Acadie (which published many of the poems in the first place) released the French edition, Reves inacheves, at the Salon du Livre in Montreal, and Goose Lane released the English edition, Unfinished Dreams, at a joint launching in Moncton. Even so, Ouellette's mandate is to pub lish books by Acadian writers for Acadian readers. Fully 85 per cent of Editions d'Acadie authors are Acadian, and most of its customers are in the Maritime provinces. The second?largest market is Quebec, although, Ouellette says, getting books into the Quebec bookstores isn't easy, even for Quebecois publishers, because the higher price of European books yields booksellers a better profit. Editions d'Acadie has a new Belgian distributor as well as a distributor for English Canada, but it's too early to tell how active either of these markets will be. Usually Ouellette attends two or three of the major European book fairs each year. Although Editions d'Acadie shares a stand in the French section of these fairs with Quebec publishers, this is also where Ouellette meets English?Canadian publishers ?? it was in Frankfurt that he struck a deal with McClelland & Stewart for the French rights to Nights Below Station Street. But the Montreal Salon du Livre is New Year's in November for Editions d'Acadie. The stall serves as a week?long boutique where Ouellette gets direct feedback from the 100,000 book?lovers who come to see what's new. In fact, the mass launching of the fall books attracts so many Acadian expatriates and their friends that it has become an annual reunion. At the European fairs, Ouellette does a certain amount of buying and selling, but mostly he evaluates what others are doing to see how his own firm could be improved. At the Salon du Livre, sales cover the cost of the trip, and those readers who hang around the stall and lift a glass at the launching are not too shy to say exactly what they think of the back list as well as of the new books. They force Ouellette to think over the past year's achievements and the work that lies ahead. In spite of everything, though, Acadian publishers remain marginal. French publishers outside Quebec recently formed the Regroupement des Editeurs Acadiens et Canadiens Francais, but what the association can do remains to be seen. So far, it looks like a very disparate group ?? four of the 15 members are magazine publishers ?? but at least they can mount cooperative displays at book fairs where they can't afford to appear individually. For the moment, though, Acadian presses in New Brunswick have more in common with Quebec publishers than with French publishers in Western Canada. Editions d'Acadie relies on Quebec firms for priing and binding, partly because of price, quality, and service so far unavailable at home in English or in French, and partly because of the untranslatable component of the technical vocabulary. From the business angle, Editions d'Acadie has more in common with similar Quebec publishers ?? and even with English Maritime publishers ?? than with the smaller, more specialized Acadian publishers here or with other French publishers outside Quebec. But the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and Quebec's unique way of administering the GST may change the situation in unforeseen ways. Whatever happens, though, Acadian publishing is on as firm a foundation as publishing anywhere else in the country. In New Brunswick, the Acadian 30 per cent of the population will continue to demand its own books, and if the author Lise Robichaud is heeded, the demand throughout the Maritimes will grow. In Voir l'art (forthcoming from Michel Henry Editeur), she shows how to integrate Acadian culture into the primary school curriculum. If there's a new wave of Acadian nationalism, the presses are ready.

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