Quebec Studies

An Interview with Grégoire Chabot

Quebec Studies (2002), 33, (1), 149–153.

Abstract

149 An Interview with Grégoire Chabot Leslie Choquette Institut français, Assumption College According to Grégoire Chabot, a Franco-American author from Newburyport, Massachusetts, the most important quality in a writer is critical thinking, which is the only guarantee of creativity. Engaged in current social debates, the author has an obligation to help build the future. It is through questioning all values without exception that s/he will succeed in creating something new, something better. Chabot therefore rejects the ideology of survivatice, the backward-looking vision that dominated Franco-American literary discourse for more than a century. To want only to conserve, main­ tain, perpetuate, preserve, is to refuse real life in favor of mere survivorship and to consign oneself, in the end, to oblivion. It is to be content, in the un­ forgettable phrase of one of Chabot's essays, with the "happiness of dying IN FRENCH!!!" Born in 1944, Grégoire Chabot studied French literature at Colby College, the University of Maine, and the University of Massachusetts. From 1976 to 1980, he worked in the field of bilingual education, then, when government funding ran out, he became a specialist in communications. In 1996 he founded a French-language theater troupe called "Du monde d'à côté" (Folks Next Door). Entirely dedicated to a Franco-American repertory, including the plays of Chabot himself, the troupe has performed in New England, Quebec, Louisiana, and France. Last year Chabot received the lit­ erary prize of the organization France-Louisiane-Franco-Américanie for his short story "À perte de vue" (As Far As the Eye Can See). LC—What town do you come from? Did you grow up in a Petit Canada, where much of everyday life was carried on in French? GC—I was born in Waterville, Maine and spent my first five years in Auburn, Maine before returning to Waterville. Both of these communities had a substantial Franco-American population, which made it possible to live one's whole life "in French." That explains why I spoke only French until the age of five. I went through the Waterville parish schools (which were bilingual), and I always spoke French at home, which I continue to do with my mother to this day. LC—You also attended bilingual secondary school in New England. Were your teachers Franco-American? What was their attitude toward their stu­ dents' French? GC—I went to Assumption Prep in Worcester where most of my teachers were from France. I also took Latin in French for two years with Father Marius Dumoulin, A.A., a Frenchman who taught me more French gram- Québec Studies, Volume 33, Spring/Summer 2002

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Choquette, Leslie