Quebec Studies

Breaking the Silence: An Interview with Marie-Célie Agnant

Quebec Studies (2006), 41, (1), 45–62.

Abstract

45 Breaking the Silence: An Interview with Marie-Célie Agnant Patrice J. Proulx University of Nebraska at Omaha Haitian-born writer Marie-Célie Agnant has been living in Montreal for over thirty-five years. During this time, she has been recognized for her social activism and has become an important and respected figure in contemporary francophone literature. A citation from Myriam Chancy serves to frame the critical significance of Agnant's literary corpus, characterizing the works of Haitian women writers in general as "acts of intervention, metahistories, which render the lives of Haitian women visible" (Framing Silence 109). Indeed, themes of bearing witness and transmitting memory give shape to her texts, while concomitantly serving to underscore Agnant's commitment to exploring questions of individual and collective female identity involving the legacy of colonialism. Many of her works also focus on such issues related to the immigrant experience as exile, alienation, bicultural identities, hybridity, and migrant memory, as her displaced characters seek new ways to define themselves after leaving their homelands and moving to Québec. Agnant has published widely in a variety of different genres. Her first work, a volume of poems entitled Balafres (1994), introduced many of the leitmotifs which would resonate in her later works, including the need to give voice to those who have been silenced. Her two novels, La dot de Sara (1995) and Le livre d'Emma (2001), both highlight the imperative nature of the transmission of cultural memory from one generation to the next. Although Marianna, the elderly Haitian protagonist of La dot de Sara, suffers from the loss of her homeland (she left Haiti to care for her granddaughter in Montreal), she succeeds in bequeathing her legacy to Sara, who will in turn transcribe their story for future generations. Emma, a Haitian immigrant to Montreal who has been put in a psychiatric hospital after allegedly having killed her daughter, entrusts her life story and the eventual inscription of the experiences of her ancestors to the narrator, Flore, who serves as a translator for the protagonist's doctor. While Emma insists on the fact that official representations of history need to be rewritten, taking into account the true story of slavery and colonization, she is ultimately unable to assume her own heritage and commits suicide. The short stories in Le silence comme le sang (1997), a collection nominated for the Prix du Gouverneur général du Canada, center around protagonists who are forced to choose between a life of exile in a new land and a life in which both the threat and the reality of violence is omnipresent. Agnant has also written children's stories and novels for adolescents, the latter dealing with such issues as Haitian boat people imprisoned in refugee camps in Florida {Alexis d'Haïti) and the exploitation of immigrant workers {Vingt petits pas vers Maria). Québec Studies, Volume 41, Spring/Summer 2006

Access Token
£25.00

Agnant, Marie-Célie. Alexis d'Haïti. Montréal: Hurtubise HMH, 1999. Alexis d'Haïti Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. Alexis, fils de Raphaël Montréal: Hurtubise HMH, 2000. Alexis, fils de Raphaël Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. Balafres. Montréal: Éditions du Cidihca, 1994. Balafres Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. La dot de Sara. 1995. Montréal: Éditions du Cidihca, 2000. La dot de Sara Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. "Écrire pour ruer le vide du silence." Canadian Woman Studies 23.2 (2004): 86-91. Écrire pour ruer le vide du silence Canadian Woman Studies 23 86 91 Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. Le livre d'Emma. Montréal: Éditions du remue-ménage, 2001. Le livre d'Emma Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. L'oranger magiaue. Montréal: Editions les 400 coups, 2003. L'oranger magiaue Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. Le silence comme le sang. Montréal: Editions du remue-ménage, 1997. Le silence comme le sang Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. "Le vieil homme à moitié pierre." Nul n'est une île: solidanté Haïti. Éd. Rodney Saint-Eloi et Stanley Péan. Montréal: Mémoire d'encrier, 2004. 29-43. Nul n'est une île: solidanté Haïti 29 43 Google Scholar

Agnant, Marie-Célie. Vingt petits pas vers Maria. Montréal: Hurtubise HMH, 2001. Vingt petits pas vers Maria Google Scholar

Bissoondath, Neil. "Interview." Passeurs culturels: Une littérature en mutation. Éd. Suzanne Giguère. Saint-Nicolas, Québec: Éditions de L'IQRC, 2001. 123-41. Passeurs culturels: Une littérature en mutation 123 41 Google Scholar

Bissoondath, Neil. Le marché aux illusions: la méprise du multiculturalisme. Trad. Jean Papineau. Montréal: Boréal/Liber, 1995. Le marché aux illusions: la méprise du multiculturalisme Google Scholar

Bissoondath, Neil. Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada. Toronto: Penguin, 1994. Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada Google Scholar

Chancy, Myriam J. A. Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1997. Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women Google Scholar

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987. Beloved Google Scholar

Ollivier, Émile. "Interview." Passeurs culturels: Une littérature en mutation. Éd. Suzanne Giguère. Saint-Nicolas, Québec: Éditions de L'IQRC, 2001. 41-73. Passeurs culturels: Une littérature en mutation 41 73 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Proulx, Patrice