The Fourth Century

Overview


The Fourth Century tells of the quest by young Mathieu Béluse to discover the lost history of his country, Martinique. Aware that the officially recorded version he learned in school omits and distorts, he turns to a quimboiseur named Papa Longoué. This old man of the forest, a healer, seer, and storyteller, knows the oral tradition and its relation to the powers of the land and the forces of nature. He tells of the love-hate relationship between the Longoué and Béluse families, whose ancestors were brought as ...
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Overview


The Fourth Century tells of the quest by young Mathieu Béluse to discover the lost history of his country, Martinique. Aware that the officially recorded version he learned in school omits and distorts, he turns to a quimboiseur named Papa Longoué. This old man of the forest, a healer, seer, and storyteller, knows the oral tradition and its relation to the powers of the land and the forces of nature. He tells of the love-hate relationship between the Longoué and Béluse families, whose ancestors were brought as slaves to Martinique. Upon arrival, Longoué immediately escaped and went to live in the hills as a maroon. Béluse remained in slavery. The intense relationship that had formed between the two men in Africa continued and came to encompass the relations between their masters, or, in the case of Longoué, his would-be master, and their descendants. The Fourth Century closes the gap between the families as Papa Longoué, last of his line, conveys the history to Mathieu Béluse, who becomes his heir.
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Editorial Reviews

Village Voice

"The Martinican writer Édouard Glissant is that rare hybrid: an elastic, shapeshifting writer who swings between theory and creative work with the greatest of ease and accomplishment. A towering figure of postcolonial scholarship . . . he is also a poet, playwright, and, as evidenced here, a bold and supple novelist. With The Fourth Century we get the full effect of his overarching project: a literary exorcism of Martinique's scarred psyche and past, a lingering cry against the 'black hole of time and forgetting'. . . . Papa Longoué's sessions with Mathieu, like Glissant's novel itself, burn with the urgency of a recovery mission. With this novel, Glissant has powerfully conjured up the 'centuries knotted together by unknown blood, voiceless suffering, death without echo.'"—Village Voice
Washington Post

"A playwright, critic, essayist and novelist, Édouard Glissant is one of the most significant figures in Caribbean literature. Born in Martinique in 1928, he's written more than two dozen books. His ideas about language, history, and imperialism have influenced writers such as Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant and are eagerly examined in universities where Francophone and post-colonial studies are taught. Many of Glissant's books have yet to be translated into English, which may be why he is not as well known among American readers as he deserves to be. The Fourth Century, a 1964 novel newly translated into English, should bring him more attention and appreciation. . . . His story begins in 1788, when Longoué and Béluse, the progenitors of the two clans, arrive in Martinique as captives on a slave ship called the Rose-Marie. . . . At the end of his fascinating 'indefinable chronicle,' Glissant saves his harshest comments for those characters who've made no attempt to hold on to their identities, who've willfully forgotten their connection to the vast Atlantic and the infinite continent on the other side. 'They had renounced not simply their past,' he writes, 'but even so much as the idea that they might have had one."—Washington Post
Booklist

"This award-winning novel by a noted Caribbean author explores the history, culture, and myth of his native Martinique. . . . Glissant is a poet as well, and his prose often borders on poetry. . . .The result is a richly textured novel with vivid images."—Booklist
Village Voice

"The Martinican writer Édouard Glissant is that rare hybrid: an elastic, shapeshifting writer who swings between theory and creative work with the greatest of ease and accomplishment. A towering figure of postcolonial scholarship . . . he is also a poet, playwright, and, as evidenced here, a bold and supple novelist. With The Fourth Century we get the full effect of his overarching project: a literary exorcism of Martinique's scarred psyche and past, a lingering cry against the 'black hole of time and forgetting'. . . . Papa Longoué's sessions with Mathieu, like Glissant's novel itself, burn with the urgency of a recovery mission. With this novel, Glissant has powerfully conjured up the 'centuries knotted together by unknown blood, voiceless suffering, death without echo.'"—Village Voice

Washington Post

"A playwright, critic, essayist and novelist, Édouard Glissant is one of the most significant figures in Caribbean literature. Born in Martinique in 1928, he's written more than two dozen books. His ideas about language, history, and imperialism have influenced writers such as Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant and are eagerly examined in universities where Francophone and post-colonial studies are taught. Many of Glissant's books have yet to be translated into English, which may be why he is not as well known among American readers as he deserves to be. The Fourth Century, a 1964 novel newly translated into English, should bring him more attention and appreciation. . . . His story begins in 1788, when Longoué and Béluse, the progenitors of the two clans, arrive in Martinique as captives on a slave ship called the Rose-Marie. . . . At the end of his fascinating 'indefinable chronicle,' Glissant saves his harshest comments for those characters who've made no attempt to hold on to their identities, who've willfully forgotten their connection to the vast Atlantic and the infinite continent on the other side. 'They had renounced not simply their past,' he writes, 'but even so much as the idea that they might have had one."—Washington Post

Booklist

"This award-winning novel by a noted Caribbean author explores the history, culture, and myth of his native Martinique. . . . Glissant is a poet as well, and his prose often borders on poetry. . . .The result is a richly textured novel with vivid images."—Booklist

Washington Post
"A playwright, critic, essayist and novelist, Édouard Glissant is one of the most significant figures in Caribbean literature. Born in Martinique in 1928, he's written more than two dozen books. His ideas about language, history, and imperialism have influenced writers such as Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaél Confiant and are eagerly examined in universities where Francophone and post-colonial studies are taught. Many of Glissant's books have yet to be translated into English, which may be why he is not as well known among American readers as he deserves to be. The Fourth Century, a 1964 novel newly translated into English, should bring him more attention and appreciation. . . . His story begins in 1788, when Longoué and Béluse, the progenitors of the two clans, arrive in Martinique as captives on a slave ship called the Rose-Marie. . . . At the end of his fascinating ''indefinable chronicle,'' Glissant saves his harshest comments for those characters who''ve made no attempt to hold on to their identities, who've willfully forgotten their connection to the vast Atlantic and the infinite continent on the other side. ''They had renounced not simply their past,'' he writes, ''but even so much as the idea that they might have had one."
Booklist
"This award-winning novel by a noted Caribbean author explores the history, culture, and myth of his native Martinique. . . . Glissant is a poet as well, and his prose often borders on poetry. . . .The result is a richly textured novel with vivid images."
Village Voice
"The Martinican writer Édouard Glissant is that rare hybrid: an elastic, shapeshifting writer who swings between theory and creative work with the greatest of ease and accomplishment. A towering figure of postcolonial scholarship . . . he is also a poet, playwright, and, as evidenced here, a bold and supple novelist. With The Fourth Century we get the full effect of his overarching project: a literary exorcism of Martinique's scarred psyche and past, a lingering cry against the ''black hole of time and forgetting''. . . . Papa Longoué's sessions with Mathieu, like Glissant's novel itself, burn with the urgency of a recovery mission. With this novel, Glissant has powerfully conjured up the ''centuries knotted together by unknown blood, voiceless suffering, death without echo.''"
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
West Indian writer douard Glissant addresses the turbulent, often tragic history of Martinique in The Fourth Century (trans. from the French by Betsy Wing). Seer and storyteller Papa Longou relays to young Mathieu B luse the story of their families, whose rival ancestors were brought to the island as slaves. From the first pages, describing the atrocities endured aboard the slave ships, this is a fascinating, harrowing historical epic told in rich, unflinching prose. ( Apr. 23) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The modern history of Martinique is embedded in this colorful chronicle (published in French in 1997) of the interrelationships and rivalries of two families whose founders were brought to the island as slaves in 1788. In a tangled narrative spoken by storyteller-healer ("quimboiseur") Papa Longoué to young Mathieu Béluse, the older man (a wily Scheharazade) tells how his family, who escaped to the hills and lived as outcasts, and the Béluses, whose generations toiled and suffered on various plantations, intermingled, intermarried, fought (often to the death), and were eventually joined together. It's a heady brew, sometimes sensuously dramatic, as often rhetorically forced and borderline-obscure. Many brilliant moments, though—along with slave rebellions and hurricanes, omnipresent zombies and spirits, and a powerful impression of the human cost of racial oppression, miscegenation, and madness. In its best moments, this turbulent tale becomes something very like a Caribbean Absalom, Absalom!
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803270831
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 295
  • Sales rank: 413,397
  • Product dimensions: 0.64 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 5.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Édouard Glissant is one of the foundational figures of Francophone literature. Along with other writers from the French West Indies, he inaugurated a radical interrogation of the French literary canon from the margins of the traditionally Paris-centered literary world. His books include Black Salt: Poems and Poetics of Relation, which was also translated by Betsy Wing.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


"All this wind," said Papa Longoué, "all this wind about to comeup, nothing you can do, you wait for it to come up to your hands,then your mouth, your eyes, your head. As if a man was only thereto wait for the wind, to drown, yes, you understand, to drown himselffor good in all this wind like the endless ocean ..."

    —And one can't say, he went on thinking (on his haunches infront of the child), one can't say there is no obligation in life, eventhough here I am a helpless old body just mulling over things alreadydone-and-gone, the land with its stories for ages and ages, yesme here so I can have this child in front of me, and look, Longoué,you call him the kid, but look he has Béluse eyes a Béluse head.That's a race determined not to die. A tag end that just won't end.You figure that's just being a child—but that already is strength,that's tomorrow. This one won't do like the others, he's a Béluse,but he is like a Longoué, something will come of him, Longoué I'mtelling you something will come of him, you don't know what, butstill the Béluses have changed over time; and if not well then whywould he come, why does he come here and not talk never talk PapaLongoué you understand, why all alone with you if there is no obligation,some malfini in the sky the eagle pulling strings, don't pullLongoué don't pull the strings, you just repeat yourself, you say:"Truth shot by like lightning," you are an old body Longoué, allthat is left is memory, so OK, it would be better to puff on your pipego no further, except why old devilwhy? ...

    Not a straw stirred on the roof of the hut. It was like a hunk ofmud and grass stuck in the middle of the open ground—a sitewhere the surface had been scored by water into bristling bladesone had best avoid, where streams of runoff had stacked the earthalong their edges and then the drought had dried it hard into sharpridges—yes, it was all burnt to a cinder but through some miracleof heat it rustled in the morning like a dark tree. And all around(whenever one of the two people there turned toward the fernsand bamboo surrounding the place and tried to catch a breath ofair, to catch the secret of this half-rotting, half-consumed wealth,that, even more than the passions of its sap, made the vegetationproliferate) bursts of a fragrance so burning and persistent that itreally seemed to leap from this crackling hut, as if these burstsshot from a blaze whose rigid beating heart was the hut. And yetthese two men, the old man and the child, merely let their gazeskim lightly over the curtain of trees surrounding the open space,far less to reassure themselves of the sight they were long in thehabit of seeing (behind the first line of shadowy and silent bamboo,the ferns' thousand splinters, bright and deep, and still farther thetragic clarity of the plain showing through the space between theleaves) than to give themselves time to suspend the demands of thismeditation, and take a rest from the silent dialogue that was theirlot, and perhaps also to defer the moment when one of them wouldhave to "think aloud" some word, some sentence, a word thatwould mark a new step along the way (for example Papa Longouésaying quietly and courteously, hiding the turmoil stirring inside,"No really, this time it was a Longoué who was not accursed"); toput off, in short, the need to broach another confidence: becausewords call for words.

    And they immediately looked down at the ground in front ofthem with its sharp parallel striations evenly tilted by the wind towardthe door built from a wooden crate; they contemplated onlythe red earth, fearing perhaps that all this vegetable upheavalaround them would distract them from their conversation. Morebound up in their silent search than they would have liked to admit,the one thing they feared above all was the irreversible powerof words spoken out loud—as for everything else they went back toruminating together over the dark, dense things of the past.

    They looked at the fire in front of them, the three blackenedstones, the charcoal burning beneath its ash, the live coals, the suddenpuffs of smoke when the wind, ever so light and imperceptible,finally came through the trellis of bamboo. And only the stillness ofeverything—the clearing, the earth that was furrowed but dryand burning, the hut, the fire in front of the hut, the two statuescrouched near the fire—gave the lazy smoke in the air some semblanceof speed in contrast. And even the charcoal's cracklingseemed only a weak echo, an intimate rustling reflection of theshouting and blazing sun already high in the sky at this time of day.

    Mathieu Béluse had come, as he did rather often, very early inthe morning—though when he came that way there was no guessinghis intention or how he would make his approach. And asalways, he would remain of course until nightfall, facing the oldman, awaiting with a sort of savage indifference the rare momentswhen the latter would finally continue the calm and amazing storyof the great-grandparents. A black cooking-pot already filled withgreen bananas, water, and coarse salt had been put on the fire. Implacablesplendor of sky, of earth, of humble things.

    —No one can say he wasn't born clever, acts like he doesn'tknow beans, but Papa Longoué is even cleverer, my son; you wantto know a story you know already, yes, otherwise you wouldn'thave come here with an old devil like me, and here you came withoutany money and not for a consultation: no illness, no enemy, nolove no troubles—you just want to know if a Béluse and a Longouéamount to the same, but Lord how can this little boy know eitherend or beginning, yesterday has been dead so long, nobody remembersyesterday, it's been so long, Masterdanight, so long, and herecomes a young sprout, sprung up just yesterday, he wants to mapthe course of night, so you have to talk, Longoué, you have to, soonyou will be dead and gone and even the mangy dogs will have noneof you....

    He poked the fire in front of him, blew on a bit of coal, which heskillfully tossed into his clay pipe, and then went back to smoking.In places his black skin was tinged with streaks of purple where itstretched tight over his bones. His ash-gray hair was still thick. Inpants frayed at the bottom and a dirty jersey stuck to his body fromyears of continuous wear, he looked like a black mummy strippedof half his shroud. Yes. But his eyes were unbearable, from havinglocated both the subterfuges of the present and the grave mysteriesof bygone days at the same time. As for the future, his position asquimboiseur was sufficient evidence that Papa Longoué was its master.And as for words, he rarely used them: "Is there anything utteredanywhere in the world we see, any single crying word, thatcan make us know anything?"

    —But what if by beginning everything came? Longoué, ho!At the end of your life there's a childhood. You see it, he is it;youth. He is thin perhaps, but he has the eyes. Yes, the power. Hecan do things. His eyes speak for him, I saw them. Because this oneis a Béluse but he is like a Longoué, yes. He sits there two hours,stock still. He has patience. So, what if you do have to speak, youLongoué?

    It seemed that the weight of the silence, the accumulatinglightning, the mass of heat that the slow power of the two mencrammed into the heat itself—by their motionless, patient confrontation—thusfinally made Papa Longoué (more vulnerable thisway than his young companion) in a hurry to get it over with as fastas possible; and it seemed that Mathieu thus achieved the taskhe had undertaken, to make the old man speak (in this languagewithout price, all in how it was said and in repetitions, that nonethelessproceeded reliably toward some knowledge, beyond thewords, that Papa Longoué alone could guess; because if he anticipatedanything it was not obvious and, to tell the truth, he let himselfbe guided by the unpredictable consequences of the words;yes, this way of speaking was so right considering the thickness ofthe day, the weight of the heat, the slow memory). If he spoke itwould make the past clear and perhaps explain precisely this passionthat he, Mathieu, had for the past. Then gradually Longouégave in, though he did not realize—did he?—that he was beingsubjected to the adolescent's law. On the contrary, he thought hewas leading the latter (a talented boy, willing to listen to what oldpeople had to say, a boy with a spark in his eye) bit by bit towardthe moment when he could understand and possess the magicalsequence of events by himself. But Papa Longoué guessed that hisyoung friend had possibilities other than the gift of darkness;Mathieu, for his part, knew that the quimboiseur would be put offby logic and clarity. Consequently, they were both afraid of wordsand only proceeded very warily in getting to know each other. Bothsensed however that no matter what they did they—a Béluse and aLongoué—would meet some time or other (thought Longoué). Sothe man gave in to the child and began to get his words ready, tofollow what he said himself, to organize it, to extend it.

    "The past. Tell me about the past, Papa Longoué! Just whatis it?"

    At that point the quimboiseur was not fooled. He understood perfectlywell that he would get completely involved in the question,even in its childish form. And that this form was merely a finalconcession that Mathieu had wished to grant him, even though theboy could have simply asked: "What is left of the past?" or "Why dowe have to go back over the past?" or some other straightforward,clear question without detours. No, he had given some thought asto how to put it. Longoué, for the first time, suspected that this personsitting opposite him was not as young as he seemed. He wantedto look Mathieu in the eye, sound him out more deeply, seeking inthose eyes some evidence or denial. But he resisted, fearing perhapsto find there what he dreaded: a different passion—not the oneeager for secrets but the beginnings of criticism and judgment;he had the good sense not to but lifted his face instead toward theblazing sky, as if looking for help. The red and black pipe wassmoking in his hand. The heat everywhere was so vast and so sweet.

    He put the clay pot on the fire, moving abruptly and almostrecklessly, yet he was watching Mathieu, hoping that this suddengesture would make him jump. The boy did not budge: quietlywatching the green bananas, the gray scum on the surface of thewater.... (This is not a child any more, thought the other somewhatbitterly, this is a man.) The food was already humming on thefire. The sound in the sun, the acrid fragrance of bananas, the drysmell of charcoal, the slow swaying of the trees (because the windwas coming up) was gradually numbing. Mathieu and Longoué remainedsilent a long while, forgetting the struggle. But it was anotherstruggle to keep their truce, to stay absent.... In the end, theadult spoke softly.

    "They are fools down there. They say, `What's gone is gone.' Buteverything that goes into the woods is kept in the heart of thewood! It is just as well that I walk in the woods and never go down.Because when I look back toward my father my son is gone. Whena man says `The past' what he is saying is `Hello my father.' Now,look at life, when a man's son is gone, he can never again say, `Hellomy son.' And my son is gone."

    to kill Liberté Longoué; the only thing thatbrought that trouble to an end was when Stéfanise Béluse, as a sortof reparation you might say, chose as her man the nephew of theone her father had killed. There had always been some Béluse onthe heels of some Longoué; as if since the moment they had beendelivered here after the long sea agony the Béluse men had wantedto extinguish the indomitable violence of the Longoué men by beingits equal. So then Mathieu the father had followed Ti-René tothe great war; although both had been officially drafted it would bewrong to think Mathieu did not, in fact, follow Ti-René—the governmentdecrees simply corresponded to the requirements of fate,that's all there is to it. But Mathieu returned from that war. Andthis meant that, no matter what, the Béluse men were catchingthe Longoués. Not merely because Papa Longoué was half Bélusethrough his mother Stéfanise who was Apostrophe's woman, butalso because the Longoué line would run dry in the person of PapaLongoué himself while Mathieu Béluse the son would live to becomea father.

    "Where is your strength, Masterdanight, where is your presence?Rip this earth open. Make words come out like filaos!"

    Papa Longoué laughed softly because he was thinking of theLongoué men who, right from the beginning, had all left behindnames that distinguished them from each other. For example, Libertéthe ancestor's second son, who was given that name becausehis father had refused to crouch in slavery on the Acajou estates;and so on for all the others, there was always some explanation forthe names. The names appeared out of the dark, it was just a matterof seeing them and grabbing them. Except, yes, except for the ancestor.What his name was no one knew because he had fled intothe woods the very day, one could even say the very hour that hehad been set on shore, and once there he named his sons but forgothimself (as he remembered himself). All, therefore, except that firststem who had been the archetypal Longoué and now—stupid,stupid—Papa Longoué himself the last of the succession, whosename even as a child had never been anything other than these twowords: Papa Longoué. There was a sort of irony in linking the twowords: Papa, which means tenderness and kindness, and Longoué,which is rage and violence. The last Longoué thus rejoined the firstin the anonymity of the family name, but one of them had been acreator beyond reproach while the other was no longer anythingmore than a seer, and just barely a good quimboiseur. Thus the racewas going to die out, just as it had begun, with the name of the rootalone. Except that the first Longoué did not have time to be aperson called "a Longoué" (even if he bore within him all the qualitiesof the family) and the last would only remain in the memory ofmankind as a papa: Papa Longoué. With no other description, withno other dignified distinction; simply as the powerless branch thatcan be said to have been part of the tree, period. Now the branchlies there on the ground. As if all this forest that made the family,all this forest of men stirred to such excitement by the dry wind,all this wild, thick man-resin that had shuddered in the density ofheat and night would now return into the earth, leaving the clearsky and the thundery sky, leaving on the surface of the soil behindthem only this pathetic last sprout withered by marks of tendernessand kindness.

    The wind began to spring up in the clearing. It felt soft on Mathieu'slegs exactly like a savanna where the growth was not too tall,a field of short creeping plants. But this wind was growing; hurtledby its own power into the gully that passed in front of the trees, itgained ground: a weed about to get a purchase on the two men'sbreasts. Water in the vat of heat rising to where it means to drownthe sun.

    And the other thing that could be said is this: that the Bélusemen and the Longoué men had somehow joined forces in thesame sort of wind, with a fury and force that came at first from theLongoués, but then took root in the amazing Béluse patience. And(thought Papa Longoué, the quimboiseur, the man who was in chargeof the future and who, in the person of Mathieu, expected to savethe future) wasn't this final branch Béluse, with nothing in it thatwas Longoué? (Otherwise, why would everybody call me Papa Longoue?It's because I'm too mild, yes!) Maybe his mother, Stéfanise,had not really inherited the powers? He had always thought shehad, but maybe she remained a Béluse to the end and maybe shepassed on to her son this shortcoming of gentleness and weakness.

    Longoué laughed nonetheless; he laughed to think that thesole act of official violence anyone knew of in the history of the twofamilies had been committed by a Béluse, Anne Béluse who was thefather of Stéfanise, and therefore unmistakably his own grandfather.What had Anne done? He killed Liberté Longoué. Out of loveand jealousy. Ever since that time it had seemed that a deep, hiddenviolence lay sleeping in the blood. Maybe—who could say?—it wasreappearing in Mathieu, despite all his education.

    And then Stéfanise, who was born a Béluse, went away a Longoué:there was plenty of proof of that. She had plenty of time tochange. Papa Longoué alone (—I, Longoué, whom they call papa—)had no time: he had almost not known his father, who died fiveyears after he was born. And on top of that, he had entirely notknown his son Ti-René because of the latter's tendency always to bewandering here and there, and especially because (since the quimboiseurhad hoped that after a while his son would come back tothe forest in the end), yes, especially because of the great war on theother side of the ocean. And thus Papa Longoué (—I, Longoué, whohad no time—) had kept standing all alone, he had never been ableto hook anything to anything, neither his father to his son, nor, as aresult, the past to the future. He was the caressing surface of thewind but he was not the full-force wind clamoring deep inside itselfstarting at the base of the trees and rising up to the sun.

    "You heard me," Mathieu exclaimed. "You are pretending!"

    "Don't grow too fast, young man. I tell you, you are growing toofast."

    "What do you mean growing? What did you say, I'm growing?What does that mean, Papa?"

     Really the wind was rising. The coals on the fire rekindled inrhythmic bursts but soon went out, consumed by the violent air.The cooking-pot seemed unsteady on the three black stones. Theground itself was moving: you would have said the sharp blades ofclay were pitching toward the hut. The wind was not yet as high asa man is tall, but it rose steadily.

    "This wind," said Longoué. "Yes! This wind! This is what you areasking for!" He went on proclaiming, which meant he was givingin: "Can anyone measure the strength of this great wind that risesup the hillsides?"

    Because today they just hang around in that little spot of theirs,and they can't see! Where is this wind? What direction? Which one?

    "They don't even see the boat?"

    "The boat that brought them over?"

    "The boat that brought them over," said Papa Longoué.

    Hundreds and hundreds of boats came. "Do you understand?Why would they have seen that particular boat slip into the fog oftheir memory with its moldy gangplanks dangling along the hulllike arms without hands. That particular one. That came into theharbor one July morning while the rain beat down like mad?"

    Behind the swamps on the Point one could barely make out thegray walls of the Fort, distant cliffs crowned with bluish smoke thatvery rapidly disappeared into the screen of rain. Along the waterfrontthere were only tumbling masses of some undetermined vegetationto be seen, and here and there the leprous wound of work orstorage sites. On the boat, water was scouring the deck, streaminginto the holds, drowning the foul cargo. The captain had orderedthe hatches opened and the ports uncovered so the water wouldflow. It was half past nine in the morning, and the sun was shiningthrough the rain.

    (The Rose-Marie. She was impatiently awaited; there were notenough hands for the work of this country. It had required everythingthe ship's commander knew for two-thirds of the slavestaken aboard to arrive "safe and sound." Illness, vermin, suicide, rebellions,and executions had punctuated the crossing with cadavers.But two-thirds was an excellent average. And the captain hadescaped the English ships. Quite a remarkable sailor!)

    The rain washed down the timbers, the sails, the rigging; itmade the black spot marking where they had put the piece of sheetmetal even more obvious. You could see the streaks of blackenedwood swollen by water where the heated metal had been set up,next to the brazier. You could still see the thick remains of bloodthat were around it. Because rebels had been made to dance to therhythm of the fire on the hot metal whenever they refused to walkduring the half hour of exercise on deck. And the metal itself wasthere, twisted, humpbacked, blackened, bloody, and the rainwaterstriking it with a cheerful patter could not wash away the thicklyaggregated soot of burned blood and rust.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Fourth Century by Édouard Glissant. Copyright © 2001 by University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

At La Pointe des Sables 1
Roche Carree 123
Dry Season at La Touffaille 195
Croix-Mission 253
Timelines 295
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