An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

By Sam Haigh | Go to book overview

11
Daughters of Mayotte, Sons of Frantz:
The Unrequited Self in
Caribbean Literature
Clarisse Zimra

Who or what is a Caribbean writer? Every attempt at autonomous selfdefinition has provoked equally compelling counter-definitions of cultural dependency. Can the master's language, which Frantz Fanon once tagged as the instrument of colonial brainwashing, create a common identity not encaged within the master's episteme? Can there be a Caribbean literature identified by a Euro-Caribbean language or need only Creole texts apply? If so, what do we do with those writers who, like Haiti's Frankétienne, Guadeloupe's Sonny Rupaire or Martinique's Raphaël Confiant, write both? Does pride of place override everything else? This might eliminate those who triangulate their literary quest among several spiritual homes, equally at ease in the continent to the north, Europe, and/or Africa. Naipaul, Walcott, Brathwaite, Wynter, Condé, Harris come to mind among our contemporaries, as might have Carpentier or Guillen earlier.

Indeed, this proliferation of mutually exclusive definitions nevertheless remains predicated on the belief once carried by the Cuban Carifesta movement of 1979 and, for the anglophones, hopes of a lasting West Indian Federation that the formerly colonized must constitute a cultural unit by virtue of a common past. In this idealized historical perspective, the traumatic middle passage foreshadows the islands’ resistance to their continued ‘neocolonial’ status with respect to the juggernaut of superpowers, whether to the north or across the Atlantic Ocean. This oppositional stance unites any and all cultural production, a conviction that still subtends Paul Gilroy's 1992 text, Black Atlantic, for instance, even as he short-changes the francophone contribution. Such was the contention firmly expressed, twenty years ago, by Guadeloupe's Maryse Condé in her 1979 La Parole des femmes:

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