The Encyclopedia of the Novel - Peter Melville Logan 2014


Roberto Ignacio Díaz

Divided by several languages and split into diverse political entities, the Caribbean is often difficult to imagine as one clearly recognizable cultural or literary community. The Caribbean archipelago includes thirteen sovereign states—from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, which obtained their independence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, and seven other former British colonies now part of the Commonwealth of Nations—as well as territories variously linked to old and new imperial powers, including Guadeloupe and Martinique, overseas departments of France; Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth; Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, self-governing regions within the evolving Kingdom of the Netherlands; plus numerous possessions of Britain, France, and the U.S. The languages of the Caribbean include standard and nonstandard versions of Spanish and English, French and French-based creoles, and Dutch and Papiamentu, plus various others (Alleyne, 166), a linguistic plurality that bespeaks and contributes to a fragmentation within the Caribbean by distancing geographical neighbors, even as the same plurality draws some places closer to more distant cultural configurations. Authors and readers in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, for instance, have stronger bonds with their counterparts in other parts of Latin America, or even Spain, than with literary communities in, say, Barbados or Guadeloupe, which, in turn, are drawn to larger bodies, such as Commonwealth and Francophone literatures, respectively.

Linguistic division is further reinforced by language-based academic structures and scholarly discourses as well as by the various historical trappings of literary cultures in which linguistic harmony, or a sense thereof, remains a supreme value—or, as in the case of this entry, the most transparent taxonomical principle. Several novelists from the Caribbean have received important literary prizes—the Premio Cervantes, the Prix Goncourt, the Man Booker Prize—but these too reflect the long reach of linguistic homogeneity as a unifying concept stemming from, and still connected to, European metropolitan centers. In this regard, migration, mainly to Europe and North America, is yet another factor in the centrifugal character of the Caribbean and its literature. (To complicate matters, authors and texts from Central and South American countries with Caribbean coasts are often viewed as part of one Caribbean literature, which makes much sense in the cases of Guyana and Suriname, or perhaps Panama, with fundamental cultural and historical ties to the Caribbean, but less so when it comes to larger nations.) The field of Caribbean studies is rapidly growing, as scholars identify and analyze important commonalities in economics, history, LINGUISTICS, music, politics, and religion (Knight and Martínez-Vergne; Kurlansky; Mintz and Price), but the fact remains that Caribbean literature, including the Caribbean novel, is something of a critical and literary-historical afterthought, albeit one that is increasingly relevant and compelling (Figueredo; Luis).

The idea of the Caribbean as a valid cultural category has found support in critical and theoretical studies that view the Caribbean as a disseminated formation and Caribbean literature as one recognizable, if dispersed, corpus. A crucial contribution is that of Édouard Glissant, the essayist, novelist, poet, and playwright from Martinique, whose theoretical work has appeared in English as Caribbean Discourse (1989) and Poetics of Relation (1997). Departing from the influential discourse of négritude, which stressed African roots, Glissant focused on antillanité, which emphasized the multiple ethnic strains that merge in the region, and créolité, which underscored the ties that bind the Caribbean to other parts of the Americas, including Latin America and the U.S. South (especially as it pertains to William Faulkner's fiction). Informed by chaos theory and drawing on various disciplines is Antonio Benítez Rojo, the Cuban fiction writer and scholar whose La isla que se repite: el Caribe y la perspectiva posmoderna (1996, The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective) played a role in the view of the Caribbean as one cultural entity. Although Benítez Rojo explores the writings of Bartolomé de las Casas, who defended the native peoples and proposed the importation of African slaves, and Fernando Ortiz (1881—1969), the Cuban anthropologist who conceived the influential theory of transculturation, as well as poets such as Derek Walcott (1930—), the Nobel laureate from St. Lucia, and Nicolás Guillén (1902—89), one of the founders of Afro-Cuban poetry, Benítez Rojo's focus is largely on fiction. The concept of “island” is crucial in his understanding of the region, and the Caribbean emerges in his words as a “meta-archipelago” without limits or center:

Thus the Caribbean flows outward past the limits of its own sea with a vengeance, and its ultima Thule may be found on the outskirts of Bombay, near the low and murmuring shores of Gambia, in a Cantonese tavern of circa 1850, at a Balinese temple, in an old Bristol pub, in a commercial warehouse in Bordeaux at the time of Colbert, in a windmill beside the Zuider Zee, at a cafe in a barrio of Manhattan, in the existential saudade of an old Portuguese lyric. (4)

Benítez Rojo's cartography may at first seem absurdly global, yet the practice of the novel by authors variously connected with the Caribbean amply demonstrates the long reach of Caribbean culture.

The Novel in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean

Given that Cuba alone is far larger and more populous than any other country in the Caribbean, and that Havana is arguably the most important Caribbean city, it is not surprising that the island should possess the most established novelistic tradition in the region, going back to the first decades of the nineteenth century, well before the country's independence in 1902. The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are smaller countries—albeit Santo Domingo and San Juan have surpassed Havana in population—but they too have a significant novelistic tradition. Because of considerable migration to such cities as New York and Miami, writers of Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican ancestry have made major contributions, mostly in English, to U.S. Latina/o literature.

The Novel in Colonial Cuba

Although best known as a Romantic poet, José María Heredia, whose life was spent mostly in exile, may have been the author of Jicoténcal (1829), a HISTORICAL novel—the first in Spanish America—on the conquest of Mexico published anonymously in Philadelphia; it has also been credited to Félix Varela, the Cuban priest who lived in the U.S. and wrote widely on philosophical subjects. Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, who lived in Spain and is also considered a Spanish author, wrote Sab (1841), the exalted story of the eponymous former slave who is madly in love with Carlota, a white woman. She in turn loves Enrique, a handsome man of English descent who courts her mostly for her perceived wealth. Because of their racial difference, Sab's passion for Carlota is doomed to failure from the start, but Avellaneda's text, which predates Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), succeeds as a denunciation of racial prejudice and injustice, often voiced by Sab himself. The novel ends with Sab's poignant letter tracing a parallel between the situation of slaves and that of women in colonial Cuba.

The subject of RACE is also central in Cirilo Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés o la Loma del Ángel (1882, Cecilia Valdés or El Ángel Hill). Considered as the most important Cuban novel of the nineteenth century, it is an elaborate and daring tale of love and incest—Cecilia is an illegitimate mixed-race young woman who falls in love with her white brother—as well as a vast panorama of race and social relations in 1830s Cuba. Traversing the racially marked spaces of colonial society, from the brutal sugarcane fields to an elegant ball at Havana's Philharmonic Society, Cecilia Valdés partially conforms to the practices of Spanish American costumbrismo, the picturesque sketches of manners and customs that recorded such things as local dances and music (see REGIONAL), but it also foregrounds realistically the dreadful consequences of colonialism and slavery.

José Martí, who died for the cause of Cuban independence, is best known as an essayist and poet, but he also penned a novel, Amistad funesta (1885, Tragic Friendship), heralded as the first novel of modernismo, the Spanish American movement that replenished literature in Spanish by creating a new luxuriant poetical language modeled in part on modern French poetry and prose and, in the case of Martí, on the classics of the sixteenth—seventeenth century Spanish Golden Age.

The Novel in Cuba after Independence

The corpus of the twentieth-century Cuban novel features diverse experiments in the craft of fiction that may be linked with Anglo-European MODERNISM. Enrique Labrador Ruiz invented the novelas gaseiformes, including El laberinto de sí mismo (1933, The Labyrinth of Oneself), whose randomly moving structures break with the conventions of literary realism, while Dulce María Loynaz, a poet awarded the Premio Cervantes, wrote Jardín (1951, Garden), whose insubstantial plot is vaguely restricted to a woman's reminiscences of her romantic past. Virgilio Piñera wrote La carne de René (1952, René's Flesh), the sadomasochistic and homoerotic tale of a young man's education in all things carnal, by which, uncannily, is meant both flesh and meat.

The top Cuban novelist is Alejo Carpentier, whose work is often linked to the concept of MAGICAL REALISM, though it is arguably more useful to view it in the context of what Carpentier himself termed lo real maravilloso (the marvelous real), i.e., the sense of amazement stemming from the conjunction of opposing worldviews in the culturally heterogeneous Americas. Carpentier introduces the marvelous real in the preface to El reino de este mundo (1949, The Kingdom of This World), a historical novel set in Haiti around the French Revolution (1787—99), in which the execution of the slave Mackandal on a public square is interpreted differently by the colony's inhabitants; if the Europeans believe that he dies at the stake, the Africans see him turning into a bird and flying away, a metamorphosis that will allow him to continue the slave revolt. Similarly, Los pasos perdidos (1953, The Lost Steps) explores transculturation in the New World as it traces a musicologist's spatial and temporal progress from a modern city to the heart of the South American jungle in search of the world's oldest musical instrument (see SPACE, TIME). But Carpentier's greatest Caribbean novel is El siglo de las luces (1962, Explosion in a Cathedral), the tale of two siblings, Esteban and Sofía, and their passionate liaisons with Victor Hughes (1761—1826), the French revolutionary leader with whom Sofía falls in love and under whose magnetic command Esteban travels from Havana to the French Pyrenees, Cayenne, and elsewhere. Published in the early years of the Cuban Revolution (1956—59), which Carpentier wholeheartedly supported, this historical novel presents an ambiguous vision of revolutionary struggles, as the lofty ideals of liberty, equality, and brotherhood become entangled with violent authoritarianism, signaled by a guillotine, the first image in the novel.

Besides the real maravilloso, Carpentier elevated the baroque as a theory for transcultural exchanges in Latin America; indeed, the term neobaroque has become virtually synonymous with much of Cuban fiction. A sumptuous figuration thereof is Concierto barroco (1974, Baroque Concert), a short novel about a Mexican traveler in eighteenth-century Venice who disputes the historical flaws of Antonio Vivaldi's Montezuma (1732) even as Carpentier's own text deploys numerous anachronisms of its own, including a vision of Richard Wagner's (1813—83) funeral procession along the Grand Canal and an uncanny picnic attended by Vivaldi (1678—1741) and others near Igor Stravinsky's (1882—1971) grave. An ironic meditation on the vagaries of writing and reading about cultures other than one's own, Concierto barroco also celebrates transatlantic hybridities, best perceived in the trumpet's journey from the Bible through Georg Frideric Handel's (1685—1759) Messiah (1741) to Cuban and North American music, especially jazz.

Pinnacles of the New World neobaroque are Paradiso (1966, Paradise) and its unfinished sequel, Oppiano Licario (1977), by José Lezama Lima, a poet renowned for the difficulty of his erudite verses, a style which he first rehearsed in his first poem, “Muerte de Narciso” (1937, Death of Narcissus), and then transposed to his fiction. Linked by critics to the works of Marcel Proust and James Joyce, Paradiso is the strangest of novels, a complex künstlerroman (see BILDUNGSROMAN) whose subject seems to be the art of poetry, or the notion of the image, and whose plot—mostly a realistic tale, though at times densely hermetic and seemingly disconnected from the main action—encompasses the family saga of José Cemí, a fictional metamorphosis of Lezama Lima himself; his passionate friendship with the handsome Fronesis and the perilous Foción; and his involvement with Oppiano Licario, a rather mysterious character through whom he will investigate his incipient poetic vocation. On publication, Paradiso achieved a certain succès de scandale because of its graphic depiction of homosexual acts in chap. 8, but its succès d'estime has been more lasting. A passionate reader of Lezama Lima and a sophisticated theorist of the baroque and neobaroque is Severo Sarduy, who, as an exile in Paris, wrote seven of the most intricate novels of Caribbean literature, from Gestos (1963, Gestures) and De donde son los cantantes (1967, From Cuba with a Song)—which Barthes praises for demonstrating “qu'il n'y a rien à voir derrière le langage” (that there is nothing to see behind language)—to Cobra (1972), Maitreya (1978), Colibrí (1984, Hummingbird), Cocuyo (1990) and Pájaros en la playa (1993, Birds at the Beach), a posthumous work on beauty, illness, and the body.

Also among the writers who went into exile after the Revolution was Guillermo Cabrera Infante, viewed as one of the key figures in the Latin American boom of narrative fiction in the 1960s, especially for Tres tristes tigres (1967, Three Trapped Tigers), a highly cinematic novel about the nocturnal exploits of three men in Havana as well as an unrelenting succession of puns whereby the official sites of high culture seem to collapse. The name of Bach, for instance, yields to linguistic radicalism and turns into “Bachata,” or a raucous party, performed by the text itself as the main characters drive along the city's seaside boulevard, listening to a baroque piece (by Vivaldi) on the radio: “¿Qué diría el viejo Bacho si supiera que su música viaja por el Malecón de La Habana, en el trópico, a sesenta y cinco kilómetros por hora” (“Bachata, I”; “What would the old boy Bach say if he knew that his own music was speeding along the Malecón of Havana, in the tropics, at sixty miles an hour?”). A British subject and a longtime resident of London, Cabrera Infante never stopped writing about Havana, most affectingly in the semiautobiographical La Habana para un Infante difunto (1979, Infante's Inferno), whose title alludes both to Maurice Ravel's (1875—1937) melancholy piano piece and the author's literary search for his lost city, yet again rehearsed in the unfinished La ninfa inconstante (2008, The Unfaithful Nymph).

Best known in English for Antes que anochezca (1992, Before Night Falls), his memoirs later adapted into a well-known film, Reinaldo Arenas wrote numerous novels, including El mundo alucinante (1966, Hallucinations), about Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (1765—1827), the Mexican author and priest persecuted by the religious establishment; Otra vez el mar (1982, Farewell to the Sea), about a closeted homosexual man in revolutionary Cuba; and El portero (1987, The Doorman), set in New York, where Arenas lived.

A case apart is that of Miguel Barnet, an anthropologist who became a novelist with Biografía de un cimarrón (1966, Autobiography of a Runaway Slave). The text's composition began as the oral narrative of 105-year-old Esteban Montejo (1860—1973), who had been a slave in colonial times and recounted his story to Barnet, who then wrote it down in the form of a novel. The work is a classic of Latin American testimonial literature, and it was also turned into a dramatic musical piece, El Cimarrón, by Hans Werner Henze (1926—), the German composer.

Contemporary Cuban novelists include Mayra Montero, a longtime resident of Puerto Rico, whose Tú, la oscuridad (1995, In the Palm of Darkness) may be read as an ecological meditation on Carpentier's El reino de este mundo; Leonardo Padura, best known for Las cuatro estaciones (1991—98, The Four Seasons), a tetralogy of detective novels set in Havana; and Zoé Valdés, who lives in Paris and is the author of La nada cotidiana (1995, Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada), a denunciation of life in Castro's Cuba. Oscar Hijuelos, who received the Pulitzer Prize for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1990), and Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban (1992) and Monkey Hunting (2003), are important Cuban American figures in the landscape of U.S. Latino literature.

The Novel in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico

Manuel de Jesus Galvan and Eugenio María de Hostos wrote historical novels about the islands' indigenous peoples, who unlike their counterparts on the mainland became extinct soon after the European conquest. The foremost Dominican novelist, Galván adopts an overtly Christian perspective in Enriquillo (1882, The Cross and the Sword); Bartolomé de las Casas (1474—1566), whose writings are profusely quoted in the text, is also a character in this romantic tale of a native chief and his mixed-race cousin. Hostos, like Martí in Cuba, was a political man, advocating the independence of his native Puerto Rico. In La peregrinación de Bayoán (1863, Bayoán's Pilgrimage), also set in early colonial times, the main characters—Bayoán, Darién, Guarionex—stand for the largest Caribbean islands—Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba—for whose political union, in the form of an Antillean Confederation, Hostos strove.

In the last third of the twentieth century, several Puerto Rican novelists made an imprint in Caribbean literature. Luis Rafael Sánchez, a playwright and a novelist, is best known for La guaracha del Macho Camacho (1976, Macho Camacho's Beat), which takes place over the course of one afternoon and whose characters, belonging to various social classes and scattered throughout traffic-congested San Juan, are nevertheless connected by Macho Camacho's ubiquitous tune, “La vida es una cosa fenomenal” (“Life is a phenomenal thing”), whose thrust the language-driven text seems to mimic. A masterful short story writer, Rosario Ferré, penned the collection La caja de Pandora (1976, The Youngest Doll), which includes the epistolary novella “La bella durmiente” (Sleeping Beauty) as well as several novels that focus on class and gender relations; some of these novels, including The House on the Lagoon (1995) and Eccentric Neighborhoods (1998), were written in English.

The intertwined issues of bilingualism and interlingualism inform the works of Giannina Braschi, born in San Juan and a resident of New York, whose Yo-Yo Boing! (1998), a postmodernist novel of sorts written in “Spanglish,” has garnered much praise in some scholarly circles. Indeed, the English-language corpus of fiction by U.S. authors of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent continues to grow. Julia Alvarez, born in New York of Dominican parents, is the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (1991), while Junot Diaz, a native of Santo Domingo, won the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007).

The Novel in the Anglophone Caribbean

Two authors from the British West Indies were awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and in their lectures in Stockholm they put forth divergent views on the import of the Caribbean. Although born in Trinidad, V. S. Naipaul praised Britain and India as the two great civilizations in his background, but failed to acknowledge the Caribbean. Derek Walcott, on the other hand, read a lecture that focused on the East Indian village of Felicity in Trinidad, a community presented as typical of the Caribbean as a whole. Walcott's title, “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory,” and general argument find a sense of fullness in the region's splintered makeup: “That is the basis of the Antillean experience, this shipwreck of fragments, these echoes, these shards of a huge tribal vocabulary, these partially remembered costumes, and they are not decaying but strong.”

An author in whose fictional corpus the Caribbean vanishes at times, yet also resurfaces with the intensity of its rich cultural legacy, is Jean Rhys, born in Dominica and a resident of England and other European countries since age 16. Rhys's four prewar novels, starting with Quartet (1928), are all set in Europe, and while Voyage in the Dark (1934) features a West Indian protagonist, Good Morning, Midnight (1939) is the story of a woman of indeterminate origin; as for After Leaving Mr. McKenzie (1930), Naipaul, in a review, underscored the excision of the West Indies in the main character, who seems devoid of a past. Erasure, curiously, is just the opposite of what Rhys carries out in Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), her best known work. In this “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), Rhys invents a history that seeks to explain the madness of Bertha Mason, renamed Antoinette, thereby engaging in what many view as an important postcolonial response to an English classic.

The relations between Europe and the New World are also a major theme in the fiction of Wilson Harris, whose first novel, Palace of the Peacock (1960), deals with an infernal jungle expedition in search of cheap native labor; it inaugurates the Guyana Quartet as well as a vast fictional oeuvre comprising over twenty novels set in various historical periods and continents. Born in Barbados, George Lamming wrote In the Castle of My Skin (1953), a coming-of-age tale of class and race set on his native island before independence from Britain. Walcott, born in St. Lucia, is first and foremost a poet, but some of his longer works boast a strong narrative thrust and may be read as verse novels; Omeros (1990) is his reformulation of Homer's Iliad, now set in the Caribbean, while Tiepolo's Hound (2000) focuses on Camille Pissarro (1830—1903), the Impressionist painter born in the Danish West Indies.

The Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to Naipaul in 2001 for “having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories.” Indeed, Naipaul's fiction, like that of other writers from the Caribbean, often focuses on the untold stories of colonialism, but what emerges from his carefully crafted prose is not a black-and-white world, but an empire of contradictions. A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), his first international success, focused on the small life of an Indo-Trinidadian not unlike his own father, while The Mimic Men (1966), also set in the Caribbean, is quoted by postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha in “Of Mimicry and Man.” The author of piercing travel narratives about different parts of the world, Naipaul, like Joseph Conrad, with whom he is often compared, has set some of his fiction in far-flung locations; A Bend in the River (1979), for instance, takes place in a central African nation torn by violence. But he has also scrutinized England, where he has lived since 1950; The Enigma of Arrival (1987) presents a writer like Naipaul who, while living in a village near Stonehenge, considers various episodes of his past.

Born in Antigua and a resident of Vermont, Jamaica Kincaid is the author of an eloquent contemporary indictment of colonialism, A Small Place (1988), and four largely semiautobiographical novels, including Annie John (1985) and The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), both of which deal with mother-and-daughter relations. Her novel Lucy (1990), is the story of an au-pair girl from the Caribbean in an upscale New York household, while My Brother (1997), is a story of AIDS.

British authors of West Indian descent have also written highly acclaimed novels that represent the Caribbean at least partially. Andrea Levy wrote Small Island (2004), the title of which invokes both Jamaica and Britain, while Zadie Smith, whose mother was Jamaican, is the author of White Teeth (2000), a masterful tale of multiethnic families in London and beyond.

The Novel in the Francophone Caribbean

Although theories of la Francophonie inform much of the discourse about the literature of the French West Indies, the concept of the Caribbean is also significant in the discussion about culture in the region. Besides Glissant's theoretical work, statements by major novelists also serve to underscore the idea of a Caribbean cultural identity. In an interview, Patrick Chamoiseau minimized the role of linguistic unity in favor of a shared pan-Caribbean mindset:

Je suis plus proche d'un Saint-Lucien anglophone ou d'un Cubain hispanophone que n'importe quel Africain francophone ou Québécois francophone. Vous voyez, les langues, aujourd'hui, ont perdu leur pouvoir de pénétration, de structuration profonde d'une identité, d'une culture, d'une conception du monde. (Gauvin, 37) [I'm closer to an Anglophone St. Lucian or a Spanish-speaking Cuban than to any Francophone person from Africa or Quebec. You see, languages today have lost their power of insight, of deeply structuring an identity, a culture, or a worldview.]

The contributions of French West Indian authors to the Caribbean novel are numerous. Jacques Roumain, born in Haiti, wrote Gouverneurs de la rosée (1944, Masters of the Dew), the story of a man trying to save his village from drought. René Depestre, a poet also from Haiti, penned Hadriana dans tous mes rêves (1988, Hadriana in All My Dreams) a story of voodoo, zombies, and eroticism that some have read in the contexts of Carpentier's real maravilloso and of self-exoticism. Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian American author, is the author of The Farming of Bones (1998), a tragic love story set against the political persecution of Haitians in the Dominican Republic of the 1930s.

Glissant's novels, the first of which is La Lézarde (1958, The Ripening), are often read in the context of his contributions to postcolonial theory. Maryse Condé was, like Glissant, a university professor. Born in Guadeloupe, her often historical fiction includes the two parts of Ségou (1984—85, Segu), about religious and political struggles in what is now Mali, and Moi, Tituba, sorcière noire de Salem (1986, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem), which deals with colonial New England. La vie scélérate (1987, Tree of Life), was awarded the Prix de l'Académie française. It and Traversée de la mangrove (1989, Crossing the Mangrove), are both set in Guadeloupe.

The most accomplished of all Caribbean Francophone writers is arguably Patrick Chamoiseau, born in Martinique and the author of several novels, including Texaco (1992), which was awarded the Prix Goncourt. Written in French nuanced with Creole, the text covers some 150 years in the history of Martinique, as narrated mostly by Marie-Sophie Laborieux, the daughter of slaves and founder of Texaco, the shantytown named for the nearby oil refinery. Her interlocutor is a city planner identified as Christ, whom she must convince, through the power of her tongue, to spare Texaco from being razed. A Scheherazade of sorts, Marie-Sophie narrates a series of fascinating stories, often by resorting to journals and letters, that often concern her father, Esternome, born on a sugar plantation, and milestones in the island's history, from the abolition of slavery in 1848 to de Gaulle's visit in 1966. What prevails, in the end, is the power of language and stories to change minds, as the city planner reveals:

C'est elle, la Vieille Dame, qui modifia mes yeux. Elle parlait tant que je la crus in instant délirante. Puis, il y eut dans son flot de paroles, comme une permanence, une durée invincible dans laquelle s'inscrivait le chaos de ses pauvres histoires. J'eus le sentiment soudain, que Texaco provenait de plus loin de nous-mêmes et qu'il me fallait tout apprendre. Et même: tout réapprendre... . (Book Two, “The Age of Crate Wood”) [That's her, the Old Woman who gave me new eyes. She spoke so much that for a moment I thought she was delirious. But then, a certain permanence appeared in her flood of words, like an invincible duration that absorbed the chaos of her poor stories. I suddenly got the feeling that Texaco came from the deepest reaches of ourselves and that I had to learn everything. And even: to relearn everything. ....]

Marie-Sophie's stories—and, by implication, Chamoiseau's text—emerge as powerful example of how stories, or the novel as a genre, create and validate communities.


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17. Walcott, D. (1992), “The Antilles,” Nobel Lecture, 7 Dec.,