|BOOK REVIEW BY JEAN-MARIE VOLET|
Les chaînes de l'esclavage: Archipel de
[Chains of slavery : an archipelago of fictions]
by twentysix Black writers
(COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES)
Paris: Editions Florent-Massot / Association Euro Africaine, 1998
392 pages. ISBN 2-908382-95-4
The collection of short stories by 26 Black writers proposed by publisher Florent-Massot under the title Les chaînes de l'esclavage: Archipel de fictions [Chains of Slavery : an archipelago of fictions] invites the reader to such an interrogation from a variety of perspectives and locations. The depth and breadth of the Volume is due in no small part to the very high calibre of the contributors. Among those included are many of the best known novelists of Francophone Africa as well as some very talented writers from other linguistic backgrounds, in French translation. However, literary skill accounts for only so much and the main interest of the Volume lies elsewhere. Turning history upside down, it quizzes the present in order to make sense of the past and shows how the shadow of greed, exploitation and oppression is lurking above and beyond stereotypical definitions of "slavery".
The contributors to the Volume deal with the "modern" expression of an old evil, putting a face and a name to the victims in chains of today. Young girls exploited unashamedly (Boni, Kourouma, Rakotosson, Tadjo, Condé), men losing their sanity (Diop, Calhoun, Gonzales), women selling their body in order to survive (Waberi), daughters fighting familial tyranny (Couao-Zotti), etc. But, grim as it is, the picture is also one that depicts firm determination to survive in the face of adversity (Adiaffi, Karone), to battle against the odds to stay alive (Dalembert), even if sometimes, as in Monénembo's story, the struggle is just too great to be won.
In their diversity, the themes of the short stories reflect both the price to pay when human conscience is lost to greed and the way history has created specific and idiosyncratic sets of problems on both sides of the Atlantic. Today's world is a legacy of the past, but while it is possible to constantly rewrite the present as we go along, the past cannot be changed. It can only serve as a starting point in our endeavour to understand what went wrong and what needs to be done so as to avoid repeating endlessly the same mistakes. The young African girl sexually abused by her boss and the young Black American male with no future are two sides of the same tragedy. Some would like us to believe that Voltaire's famous line "C'est à ce prix que nous mangeons du sucre" [it is the price to pay to eat sugar] is still valid, but surely there must be a way of doing things better attuned to the principle of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". Reading Les Chaînes de l'Esclavage, Archipel de fictions in order to get acquainted with others' perception of the issue would most definitely be a good starting point.
|One hundred and fifty years after the abolition of slavery gazetted by the
French Nation, twentysix Black writers bring the issue up to date with stories
Emanating from Africa, the West Indies, Madagascar, Reunion and the United States, born in very different socio-cultural milieux and belonging to different generations, these authors have let their imaginations run free and have produced an extravagant tapestry of fictions in which History mingles with the contemporary world.
Winding down the path followed by the "Trade" along its racial divide, pinning down contemporary expressions of slavery, weaving a quest of liberty and literary spells, this bombardment of the imagination explodes in a flurry of new expressive language, abrasive and sensuous.
An astounding meeting of discordant farce, panic, philosophic tales, fantastic,
facetious Voodoo and many other challenging literary forms.
Titles of the short stories
Jean-Marie Adiaffi. Kanga l'inenchaînable. p.11.
Délia Blanco Cana brava. p.51.
Tanella Boni Peau de sel. p.53.
Keith Calhoun La cabine. p.71.
Steve Cannon Sortilège. p.83.
Maryse Condé Leçon d'histoire. p.99.
Florent Couao-Zotti L'odeur rancie du Brésil. p.105.
Louis Philippe Dalembert Les intouchables. p.135.
Boubacar Boris Diop Conversation avec un oiseau de nuit. p.151.
Kossi Efoui Sans nom propre. p.173.
John Farris Margie. p.183.
Michael Gonzales Symphonie de la ville noire - Rêves p.197.
Darius James Le dernier nègre américain p.209.
Yodi Karone Esclave de l'aube p.235.
Ahmadou Kourouma Allah n'est pas obligé de faire juste toutes ses choses p.245.
Dany Laferrière Un mariage à la campagne p.259.
Tierno Monénembo Quai des Antilles p.271.
Georges Monny L'épine au pied p.281.
Nancy Morejón La rivière de Martín Pérez p.299.
Blaise N'djéhoya Un océan nous sépare p.303.
Michèle Rakotoson Bozy, andevo-vavy p.319.
Jean François Samlong Le fils de Cimendef p.325.
Véronique Tadjo La nounou p.333.
Abdourahman Waberi Du wax pour dame Eiffel p.347.
Saul Williams Sha Clack Clack p.351.
A(e)rin Wilson A s'arracher les cheveux p.357.
Olivier Bartlet "La traite négrière, Mythes et idées reçues" Africultures