The dead rule the living in this richly textured Caribbean novel by Pineau, one of the few female representatives of the Cr olit movement. On the island of Guadeloupe, four generations of a family struggle to hold their own against mischievous, vengeful ancestral spirits. At the beginning of the 20th century, young Sosth ne gets the family off to a bad start when he deflowers a virgin protected by a spell to keep men away. Then, in 1912, his son, L once, is born with a club foot and a caul over his head, which is said to "open the gateway to the spirits who roam the edge of the earth." Indeed, L once is able to commune with the dead, and though he is taunted as a child, he later earns respect as a productive farmer and landowner, only to suffer the wrath of his deceased grandmother, Octavia, when he fails to heed her posthumous advice. L once's four children are all marked by fate. Schoolmistress daughter Gerty, obsessed with Victor Hugo, goes mad; twins Paul and C luta are born diabolical; and C lestina suffers a debilitating stutter. As an adult, C lestina befriends a female photographer who has returned to the island after studying in Paris, and whose interspersed narrative smoothly pieces the family history together. The photographer's clearheaded voice is the perfect foil for the intertwined ramblings of family members. She bristles at the spiritual tall tales, cringing when C lestina blames family tribulations on a spirit scourge. Only at the end of the novel does she realize that as a photographer she has cultivated a cool distance from her friend, understanding too late how, for decades, her own memories merged with C lestina's in an eerily intimate way. Pineau layers her novel, winner of the Prix Carbet, with opulent imagery and lush description, but she keeps the text from cloying with amusing ribald references and dialogue. This is a welcome addition to the list of Cr olit titles available in English. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
The 1993 winner of the Prix Carbet joins the well-received fiction of Patrick Chamoiseau as another sterling illustration of the work of the Caribbean"Créolité Movement." In a hypnotically lyrical first-person voice (that of an astonished outside observer), Parisian-born Guadaloupean Pineau spins the irresistible tale of a village family (living in"Haute Terre") cursed by its closeness with the spirits of the dead, who direct its actions over the rough half-century (1928—76) following a philandering patriarch's blithe misdeeds. The central figures are his son Leoncé, the unlucky possessor of both a clubfoot and a caul, the latter's beautiful wife Myrtha, and their variously doomed children. The story climaxes wonderfully when Leoncé's daughter Célestina meets an avatar of the mythical Baron Samedi (Death incarnate)—but it functions at an equally high level of poetic intensity throughout: Pineau invests her characters with a vitality and dignity every bit as powerful as the fatalism that circumscribes, without ever impoverishing, their colorful lives. A high-spirited, gorgeously constructed and imagined minor classic.