France Daigle

France DaiglePhoto: Olivier Hanigan; L'actualité
France Daigle
Photo: Olivier Hanigan; L'actualité

France Daigle is a multiple-award-winning Acadian novelist, playwright, and journalist born in Moncton, New Brunswick, on 18 November 1953. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from the Université de Moncton in 1976. Daigle is the recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the Prix Pascal-Poirier (1991), the Prix Éloizes (1998, 2002), the Prix France-Acadie (1998), the Prix Antonine-Maillet-Acadie Vie (1999, 2012), the Prix Champlain (2012), the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for High Achievement in the Arts (New Brunswick, 2011), and the Governor General’s Literary Award (2012).

The daughter of Viola (née Belliveau) and Euclide Daigle, France Daigle was raised in a household that promoted Acadian culture. Her father, Euclide (1922-2005), was a columnist, reporter, and assistant editor at L’Évangeline (1887-1982), a long-running Acadian newspaper and an important organ for Acadian nationalism. Following in her father’s footsteps, Daigle began her journalistic career at L’Évangéline, where she worked from 1973–1977 (Lonergan 250). Beyond his influence on her journalistic career, her father shaped Daigle’s attitudes towards the French language and Acadian culture. As she mentions in an interview with Monika Boehringer, her father “valorisait énormément la langue française” (“Le hasard” 13; “placed a huge value on the French language”). Together, Daigle’s parents stressed the importance of writing and speaking standard French well, especially in southeastern New Brunswick where Francophone Acadians are exposed daily to the English language.

In order to appreciate the significance of Daigle’s contributions to the development of Acadian literature, it is necessary to understand the period of sociopolitical and cultural ferment that, taking place in the 1960s and 70s, preceded her arrival on the literary scene in the 1980s. Key sociopolitical events in the 1960s included the election of the first Acadian premier of New Brunswick, Louis J. Robichaud (1925–2005), in 1960; the creation of the first Acadian university, the Université de Moncton, in 1963; and the adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969, rendering New Brunswick Canada’s only officially bilingual province.

Following on the heels of these important sociopolitical changes in the 1960s, the 1970s and 80s witnessed the increased autonomy of Acadian literary culture. This autonomy was made possible in part by the founding of the first two Acadian publishing houses, Éditions d’Acadie and Éditions Perce-Neige in 1972 and 1980; the creation of the Association des écrivains acadiens in 1979; and the founding of the journal Éloizes in 1980. The appearance of a new wave of poets and novelists, such as Gérald Leblanc (1945–2005), Raymond-Guy LeBlanc (1945–), Herménégilde Chiasson (1946–), Dyane Léger (1954–), and Guy Arsenault (1954–), among others, between the 1970s and the 80s, marked a shift away from the nostalgic tone and rural themes that had defined Acadian literature for the last century and towards formal experimentation and themes of anti-colonialism and cultural modernity.

Daigle’s emergence onto the literary scene coincides largely with the rise to prominence of many of New Brunswick’s best-known recent Acadian writers. Nevertheless, Daigle’s body of writing departs significantly from that of her contemporaries in its overall reluctance to delve explicitly into nationalist themes. Instead, her first books — the series of avant-garde texts, Sans jamais parler du vent (1983), Film d'amour et de dépendance (1984), Histoire de la maison qui brûle (1985), and Variations en B et K (1985) — are defined variously by their dense narration, fragmentary structures, and hybrid, poetic-prose styles. Her later novels, from 1953 (1995) to Pour sûr (2011), are variously shaped by such themes as globalization and cosmopolitanism, while also exploring the formative relationship between local topographies and individual identities.

As a novelist, then, Daigle stands out not only for her contributions to Acadian literature, but also for her contributions to the literary avant-garde in Canada. Taken as a whole, her novels can be seen to progressively stretch the boundaries of formal experimentation while challenging the expectations of readers. For example, her early novel, La vraie vie (1993), is carefully organized as a series of one hundred fragments. Her relatively recent novel, Pas pire (1998), is informed by the symbolism of the number twelve and the signs of astrological houses. And her most avant-garde novel to date, Pour sûr, is structured by the exponentiation 123, containing 1,726 passages that, taken together, run more than seven hundred pages in length.

While she is well known as a writer of the avant-garde, however, Daigle is arguably best known for her complex relationship towards Chiac, the spoken French dialect of southeastern New Brunswick. As she observes in a recent interview with Andrea Cabajsky, her relationship to Chiac has changed “radically” over the last three decades. For instance, readers will observe that dialogue is largely absent from Daigle’s early fiction. Typical in this respect, La vraie vie opens with the following narrative monologue: “Élisabeth dit souvent qu’elle aimerait avoir une vie” (9; “Elisabeth often says she’d like to have a life” [Daigle, Real Life 3]). Such an absence of dialogue means that characters are not put into situations where they would be required to speak as they naturally would in their day-to-day lives. Instead, Daigle’s early fiction betrays a reliance on dramatic monologue to convey characters’ points-of-view. In contrast to such early fiction, her later novels, such as Pas pire and Petites difficultés d’existence (2002), experiment with dialogue that is rendered in Chiac. Pour sûr is the most experimental to date. Featuring numerous passages in which characters express themselves exclusively in Chiac (“Peux-tu me dire hõw cõme que j’ai sitant de misère à dire je vais à la place de je vas?”; 39), or debate the relative value of Chiac versus standard French (“Sõ, la vraie question devrait être: faut-y parler comme qu’on écrit ou ben don écrire comme qu’on parle?”; 206), Pour sûr transforms Chiac from a casual mode of expression to a literary theme in-and-of itself.

In its very appearance, Pour sûr bears evidence of the richness and depth to which the literary use of Chiac lends itself. For example, the book’s left and right margins — those spaces usually left blank in most novels — are, in Pour sûr, filled with numerical references that correspond to a comprehensive index at the end of the novel that includes a dozen entries on Chiac. Likewise, the bottoms of pages are regularly filled with supplementary notes that feature, among other things, metacommentary on the historical and cultural specificity of Chiac. In this respect, Daigle’s novel effectively elevates Chiac’s status from a mere dialect to that of a living linguistic archive that registers the uniqueness and particularity of the Acadians’ situation in southeastern New Brunswick.

While she is primarily known as a novelist, Daigle is also a prolific writer in numerous genres that include poetry, screenplays, theatrical plays, and journalism. Her first publications were poems, short fiction, and a film script for the movie Tending Towards the Horizontal (1988) by Toronto filmmaker Barbara Sternberg. As a playwright, she has penned a handful of plays, including Craie (1999), Foin (2000), and Bric-à-brac (2001), which were written for Moncton Sable, a local theatre collective. Also, having worked for Radio-Canada in Moncton as a writer of news reports from 1975 to 78 (Lonergan 250), she has, since 2012, returned to journalism by writing a regular column for New Brunswick’s Francophone daily newspaper, L’Acadie nouvelle (1984–). In her column, she addresses current affairs: standard French and its place in the public school system, corporate citizenship in New Brunswick, the viability of Francophone bookstores, the depopulation of northern New Brunswick, and the use of the French language in popular media.

Over the course of the last two decades, Daigle’s literary reputation has extended beyond the borders of New Brunswick and Acadie into English Canada, and abroad. It is significant in this context that about half of Daigle’s novels have been translated into English and published by the House of Anansi, a prominent Canadian publisher. Of those translations, Just Fine (Robert Majzels’ translation of Pas pire) was the recipient of the Governor General’s literary award for French to English translation in 2000, while For Sure (Majzels’ translation of Pour sûr), was a finalist for the GG in 2013 and appeared on the long-list for the International IMPAC Dublin award in early 2015.

Intensely experimental in form and theme, Daigle’s oeuvre bears witness to the political and aesthetic forces that have transformed the writing and reading of Acadian literature in the last few decades. More than a mere witness to important changes in the literary landscape of New Brunswick, France Daigle has been a catalyst in the modernization of Acadian literature while becoming, in recent years, a formidable presence on the national and international literary stages.

Andrea Cabajsky, Summer 2015
Université de Moncton

Bibliography of Primary Sources (Chronological)


Daigle, France. Sans jamais parler du vent. Roman de crainte et d’espoir que la mort arrive à temps. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1983.

---. Film d’amour et de dépendance. Chef-d’œuvre obscur. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1984.

---. Histoire de la maison qui brûle. Vaguement suivi d’un dernier regard sur la maison qui brûle. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1985.

---. Variations en B et K. Plans, devis et contrat pour l’infrastructure d’un pont. Outremont, QC: Éditions nbj, 1985.

---, in collaboration with Hélène Harbec. L’été avant la mort. Montreal: Éditions du remue-ménage, 1986.

---. La beauté de l’affaire. Fiction autobiographique à plusieurs voix sur son rapport tortueux au langage. Outremont and Moncton: Éditions nbj / Éditions d’Acadie, 1991.

---. La vraie vie. Montreal and Moncton: Hexagone / Éditions d’Acadie, 1993.

---. 1953. Chronique d’une naissance annoncée. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1995.

---. Real Life. Trans. Sally Ross. Toronto: Anansi, 1995.

---. Pas pire. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1998. [2nd ed. Montreal: Boréal, 2002.]

---. Un fin passage. Montreal: Boréal, 2001.

---. Petites difficultés d’existence. Montreal: Boréal, 2002.

---​​​​​​​. Pour sûr. Montreal: Boréal, 2011.

Selected Poems and Short Fiction

Daigle, France. “Poème impossible à finir.” Éloizes 4 (Autumn 1981): 15.

---. “Sur les traces de Marianna Godbout, cordonnière et savetière.” Éloizes 4 (Autumn 1981): 51-53.

---. “Le taillant de la lame.” Éloizes 5 (Spring 1982): 23.

---. “Méditerranéennes 1 & 2.” Éloizes 7 (Spring 1983): 75, 76.

---. “Pour Zahava où qu’elle soit.” Éloizes 9 (Spring 1984): 43-46.

---. “Et cela dura.” Éloizes 11 (Spring 1985): 16-17.

---. “Journal pour un être cher.” Cahiers bleus 36-37 (Spring 1986): 13-15.

---. “Sa chienne Chloé.” Éloizes 16 (Spring 1991): 83.

---. “Le concert.” Éloizes 19 (Spring 1993): 11.

---. “Què’que chose de nouveau.” Éloizes 20-21 (Spring 1994): 119-122.

---. “Étude #27.” Estuaire 78 (August 1995): 25-27.

---​​​​​​​. “Pas pire [extrait].” Europe 852 (May 2000): 215-219.

---. “Une petite place.” Dalhousie French Studies 62 (Spring 2003): 9.

---. “Inédit.” Voix et images 29.3 (2004): 25-29.


Daigle, France. Tending Towards the Horizontal. Tessera 13 (Winter 1992): 64-73.


Daigle, France. “Commentaire.” L’Acadie nouvelle. 2012-.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Boehringer, Monika. “Le hasard fait bien les choses: entretien avec France Daigle.” Voix et images 29.3 (Spring 2004): 13-23.

---. “Sexual/Textual Politics in Chronicles of a Death and a Birth Foretold 1953 by France Daigle.” Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Narratives in North America. Ed. Mark Cronlund Anderson and Irene Maria Blayer. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. 151-61.

---. “Une fiction autobiographique à plusieurs voix: 1953 de France Daigle.” Revue de l’Université de Moncton 34.1-2 (2003): 107-28.

Boudreau, Raoul. “Le rapport à la langue dans les romans de France Daigle: du refoulement à l’ironie.” Voix et images 29.3 (Spring 2004): 31-45.

---. “Le silence et la parole chez France Daigle.” Mélanges Marguerite Maillet. Ed. Raoul Boudreau, et al. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1996. 71-81.

---. “Les français dans Pas pire de France Daigle.” La creation littéraire dans le context de l’exiguïté. Ed. Robert Viau. Beauport: MNH, 2000. 51-64.

---, and Anne Marie Robichaud. “Symétries et réflexivité dans la trilogie de France Daigle.” Dalhousie French Studies 15 (Autumn-Winter 1998): 143-153.

Cabajsky, Andrea. “‘Le sentiment vif de créer': Entretien avec France Daigle / ‘The Vivid Feeling of Creating’: An Interview with France Daigle.” Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne 39.2 (2014): 248-69.

Déléas-Matthews, Josette. “France Daigle: une écriture de l’exil, une écriture en exil.” Atlantis 14.1 (1988): 122-26.

Den Toonder, Jeanette. “Dépassement des frontiers et ouverture dans Pas pire.” Voix et images 29.3 (Spring 2004): 57-68.

---. “L’Acte créateur et l’espace littéraire dans l’autofiction de France Daigle (La beauté de l’affaire, 1953 et Pas pire).” RELIEF: Revue Électronique de Littérature Française 3.1 (2009): 77-94.

---. “Voyage et passage chez France Daigle.” Dalhousie French Studies 62 (Spring 2003): 13-24.

Doyon-Gosselin, Benoit, and Jean Morency. “Le monde de Moncton, Moncton ville du monde: l’inscription de la ville dans les romans récents de France Daigle.” Voix et images 29.3 (Spring 2004): 69-83.

Francis, Cécilia W. “France Daigle: À propos des jeux de l'art et du hasard.” Canadian Literature 189 (Summer 2006): 183-92.

---. “L’autofiction de France Daigle: Identité, perception visuelle et reinvention de soi.” Voix et images 84 (Spring 2003): 114-38.

Leclerc, Catherine. “France Daigle au Québec, France Daigle et le Québec.” Voix et images 37.3 (Spring-Summer 2012): 127-43.

---. “L’Acadie rayonne: Lire France Daigle à travers sa traduction.” Voix et images 29.3 (2004): 85-100.

Lonergan, David, ed. Paroles d'Acadie: Anthologie de la littérature acadienne (1958-2009). Sudbury, ON: Prise de parole,‎ 2010.

Masson, Alain. “Écrire, habiter.” Tangence 58 (1998): 35-46.

Morency, Jean. “La géographie des romans récents de France Daigle: Un nouveau rapport à l’identité et à l’altérité.” Études canadiennes/Canadian Studies 58 (June 2005): 195-203.

---, ed. Special issue on France Daigle. Voix et images 29.3 (Spring 2004).

Ouellet, Lise. “De l’autobiographie à la fiction autobiographique dans la littérature feminine.” La Licorne 27 (1993): 365-78.

Paré, François. “France Daigle. Intermittences du récit.” Voix et images 29.3 (Spring 2004): 47-55.

Plantier, René. “L’aléatoire dans l’excès des signes de la rigueur: La vraie vie de France Daigle.” Mélanges Marguerite Maillet. Ed. Raoul Boudreau et al. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1996. 313-24.

---. “Le renvoi de la balle acadienne: 1953 de France Daigle.” Tangence 58 (1998): 56-65.

---. “Sans jamais parler du vent de France Daigle: une écriture odyssée.” Mer et littérature: Actes du colloque international sur la mer dans les littératures d’expression française du vingtième siècle. Ed. Melvin Gallant. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1992. 11-16.

Ricouart, Janine. “France Daigle’s Postmodern Acadian Voice in the Context of Franco-Canadian Lesbian Voices.” Doing Gender: Franco-Canadian Women Writers of the 1990s. Ed. Paul Ruth Gilbert and Roseanna L. Dufault. Cranbury, NJ: Associated UP, 2001. 248-66.

Roy, Véronique. “La figure d’écrivain dans l’oeuvre de France Daigle, aux confins du mythe et de l’écriture.” La creation littéraire dans le context de l’exiguïté. Ed. Robert Viau. Beauport: MNH, 2000. 27-50.

Runte, Hans R. “Unwriting Writing.” Writing Acadia: The Emergence of Acadian Literature 1970-1990. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1997. 153-63.