An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

By Sam Haigh | Go to book overview

12
The Caribbean: A Multirelational
Literary Domain1 Régis Antoine
(translated by Roger Baines)

The recent media coverage of Antillean writers and their work has enabled the French, and indeed European, reading public to discover the ‘periodization’ of the literary history particular to these overseas departments: from the negritude introduced in 1939 by Aimé Césaire (the greatest literary author, as far as we are concerned or, at the very least, the greatest living French writer); to Caribbeanness twenty years later and creolization the Poétique de la relation of Prix Renaudot winner Edouard Glissant; and, finally, to Creoleness, with Patrick Chamoiseau being awarded the Prix Goncourt for Texaco in 1992. And as for Haitian literature, thus far neglected by the mainstream reading public, the number of writers published and read in Paris is similarly significant, as Haitian literature has proved to be highly important and of an excellent standard. What, however, is the position of francophone literature within the Caribbean itself and, more widely, within the American world? What about its Creoleness in relation to the comparable ‘Creolidad’? Excluding Quebec, the Caribbean certainly does not benefit from a close linguistic hinterland in the way that the hispanophone Caribbean has Central and South America, or the anglophone islands have the African-American world, because Louisiana and French Guiana are incapable of sustaining the notion of a continuum of French language.

There is no francophone university which has managed to provide a flexible federal structure, as has the anglophone University of the West Indies. Despite the quality periodical Chemins critiques, published in

____________________
1
A version of this chapter has already been published in French: Régis Antoine (1995), ‘La Caraïbe, aire littéraire de multirelations’, Imaginaires Francophones (Publications de la Faculté des Lettres, Arts et Sciences humaines de Nice, Centre de Recherches Littéraires Pluridisciplinaires), 22, pp. 28595.

-195-

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