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He has gone on to speak about the paralysing difficulty faced by Antillan writers, which was this dramatic choice between languages.

Creole is what structures the imagination and is the language of oral tradition, of tales and spoken history. Creolity was a deliberate, creative choice cf. This creolity is an imbrication of languages and cultures and is vital evidence of the Creole writer's wealth. Knowing several languages and accepting bilingualism or multilingualism as a reality and not as an underlying alternative, he or she can abandon the constraints of an old world: a new language is created for a new world.

Le Point, 19 septembre France-Soir, 10 novembre One perceptive critic however finds it to be "disconcerting but enchanting if you know how to give yourself over at the risk of not understanding everything" 5. But this opacity on the part of the author is voluntary and deliberate, and the reader must accept this.

It could only be a polyphonic account — multi-voicedness is at the source of Texaco.

It purports to be a compilation of Marie-Sophie Laborieux's notebooks, which record the words and the story of her father Esternome. Then there is The Urbanist who arrives in Texaco to plan its destruction and is stoned and who listens to her history of the shantytown.

He transmits his notes to the Word Scratcher, which is Oiseau de Cham's transcription of the tale; and then there is Chamoiseau himself, both inside the text and outside it. Patrick Chamoiseau's starting point is a language problem, a struggle with language.


The translators therefore fall into a double kind of trap. The struggle that the translators have had is that although the work is grounded in French — it was awarded the Prix Goncourt after all — the creolity is present not just in spirit, but also in the play that is made in the gaps or the overlaps between French and Creole.

And this is the last voice in the text — the voice that Jacques Coursil paradoxically refers to as dumb, "la muette": speaking in French but identified as Creole. It must be pointed out however that she means strange to the European mainland francophone reader.

Does it then follow that the translation into English seems to be English but that the meanings and structures are strange?

I would answer, yes, but not for the same reasons. It would seem that the translators have not always been able to render or transmit some of the linguistic and cultural particularities that they were faced with, often because of idiosyncracies inherent in and proper to the French language. But sometimes this has been due to plain ignorance of language and culture.

She examines lexis and syntax before turning to a consideration of the way that orality is marked in the story. However, they quite often mistranslate French words with a Creole meaning.

These words are missed, passed over like hidden secrets. I would disagree, except for the superfluous glossary which includes items which are perfectly translatable: C.

The English version seems to be undertranslated, if anything. The work was received with enthusiasm in France, although not entirely unmitigated, while the Antillean readership was rather more divided. But to paraphrase Umberto Eco, when a text is taken up by readers that it has not postulated then the text either becomes unreadable or else it becomes another book.

This is the case here: Texaco in English has inevitably become another book.

It is not unreadable though, because, for all the quibbling, the translators have largely fulfilled their remit and acted as guides to Chamoiseau's writing, and thereby to the Caribbean, opening them up and making them available to the foreign reader.

This text will never be transparent though, because of the author's project of deliberate opacity. What the translators have done, ultimately, is to give an interpretation of the baroque quality of the text and to transmit a certain idea of Caribbeanness. Translating the Caribbean, on a level other than that of language and therefore literature , implies two ways of thinking of cultural identity.

On the one hand, the idea of one shared culture presupposes a oneness underlying all the other more superficial differences. This concept of the essence of Caribbeanness has played a key role in all post-colonial struggles, and Stuart Hall claims that it lies at the heart of negritude. The uniqueness of Caribbeanness depends just as much on critical points of deep and significant differences as it does on similarities between peoples, islands, economies, languages, etc.

There is a sameness and a difference in between, say, Martinique and Trinidad, the home of Mustapha Matura, but before we examine and compare the way Matura has conveyed his sense of Caribbean identity in "translating" J.

Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, we must look at the way the characteristics of Caribbean identity and Caribbeannesss are conveyed in order to understand how Matura's recension works, and how much his work resembles and is different from that of Chamoiseau.

Antonio Benitez-Rojo despairs of any intellectual venture directed towards investigating Caribbeanness because he feels that it is doomed to become an unending search. His geographical reading gives us some clues as to how we, non-Caribbeans and post-industrial discoverers applying our own references, might try to seize some kind of understanding of this essence. He interprets the archipelago as meta-archipelago, a marginal system, with no direct communication but where there are bridges language, myths, history, economy , a non-linear system, unpredictable and chaotic, full of noise and opacity.

Caribbean difference or otherness is expressed in terms of the marginal, the periphery, the rim, the underdeveloped. In Texaco this is reflected in the industrial power of the oil company and the neat, well-organised urban layout of the city of Fort-de-France. The shantytown of Texaco, however, is on the outskirts, having grown organically, chaotically. The township is structured like the language, but the word is stronger than bricks and stones. After all, it is words that convince the Urbanist to think again, not the stone that greets his arrival in Texaco, knocking him unconscious.

It is the strength of words, which is the narrative principle behind Creole tale telling, and the spectacular nature of Caribbean narrative is reflected in Texaco and Playboy of the West Indies. The protagonists in these pieces are excessive, baroque and grotesque, and the texts out of which they speak are the same way — especially when seen from Europe.

The West's idea of the Caribbean is a product of centuries of bungling and mistakes in identifying. The masquerade that the Caribbean discourse puts on confuses more than it clarifies. Behind the masks lie codes that only Caribbean people can decipher. It would seem that Chamoiseau and Matura, far from decoding these have in fact re-encoded the discourse.


While hoping for a good, quiet story, easily penetrated and understood, yet nevertheless suspecting that what seemingly keeps on being a Western text is one which is working in a different direction, away, the non-Caribbean reader can only ever perceive a glimpse of something more.

In its desire to reinterpret in some fashion the fragmented identity of the Caribbean self, the text looks for itself in its own mirror, observing, questioning, narrating and erasing itself. The aesthetic experience is one that is remembered in terms of dream or vision, and it is quite understandable that the Caribbean writer should feel in need of European languages and traditions. They are indispensable to him but insufficient for the narration of the carnivalesque context that surrounds him, where dismembered signs from all over the world coincide and collide.

Synge's play about Irish peasants, and turns it into a Trinidadian story? Quite simply it is because the Caribbean is more than a system of simple binary opposition.

As we have noted, there is an omnipresent paradox. Daniel Pennac mostly mentions very famous writers, either classics or popular fiction authors, which gives the reader the impression of being part of the same cultural community as the author and his "tribe". Sometimes, intertextuality even becomes a game.

In The Scapegoat, Clara has to study a poem for her high school exam, but Pennac never gives the title or the author of it. Through the recurring use of intertextuality, Daniel Pennac creates a link between the reader and himself. Moreover, the choices of references and quotations also explain the various moods of the characters.

Daniel Pennac, either in his novels or on television, enjoys sharing with his readers the novels he himself likes.

His recommendations tend to increase significantly the sales of some novels. It is not much more than a reading list, however pleasurable - intellectually speaking - this may be. However, Daniel Pennac often uses intertextuality in much more interesting and complex ways. However, it is very interesting to note that, when Pennac was published in the Blanche Gallimard's very prestigious collection of more classical novels , he stopped referring to detective novels altogether.

His use of fairy tales, such as the Christmas ogre The Scapegoat , the fairy gunmother The Fairy Gunmother or la Petite Marchande de prose Write to Kill , is also very reminiscent of Agatha Christie's use of nursery rhymes for her detective stories.

The elements of magic present in fairy tales are also transposed into the detective fiction. In The Fairy Gunmother, Le Petit thinks he has seen a fairy transforming a young man into a flower when in fact he has witnessed an elderly woman blowing a policeman's brains out.

His story is a wonderful parody of American hard-boiled novels.


Pennac also uses the "roman noir" topos of the city. Belleville is seen as one of the characters, one of the tribe, protective of the other members. This tends to remind the reader of 19 century novels in installments or contemporary TV series with their commercial breaks.

However, like Miss Marple, he always happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong moment. His job as an official scapegoat, first in a department store The Scapegoat , then in a publishing house, makes him a highly suspicious character. He does not have a remarkable intellect and he is not the bright character who will solve the mystery for the police.

On the contrary. Things always happen outside of him. Otherwise, the inspectors solve the murders after first suspecting him. Unlike Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, he has a very fulfilling love and family life and, somehow, he is never left on his own. Daniel Pennac constantly refers to the image of the whole of Belleville supporting him and his family whenever tragedy hits them. However, his sidekick is no Doctor Watson or Captain Hastings. Julius is a dog and can therefore not tell about his adventures.

The various bedtime storytellers use reality in fact the fictitious reality created by Pennac to write their own fiction. His narration is meant to be a parodic metatext, a comment of the events so that the younger children will understand and no longer be afraid. The original story and the sub-narrations are often so intertwined it is not easy to know exactly who the narrator is for each part the omniscient third person narrator, Ben or another character.

Blurring the limits between the various voices, between diegetic and extradiegetic narrators, Pennac often lets his characters write the story of the events described within the novels. Pennac puts into question the very formal and traditional limits between writer- narrator-characters. These borders become vague.

In The Scapegoat, Benjamin writes a novel entitled Implosion. However, Queen Zabo gives it quite a different title, Au bonheur des ogres, after Zola, which is the title of the third volume in the series Six en comptant la plaque de verglas. Somehow, Pennac's characters seem to have a life of their own and to be the authors of their own stories. Moreover, the other characters may be the echoes of the readers 11 themselves. Van Thian's answer is also that of the author and that of the main omniscient extradiegetic narrator: "because", just "because", simply because the narrator is the master of his own story.

In The Fairy Gunmother, one of the subnarratives is also the motive for the murders of elderly women. The text itself becomes part of the murders. Telling stories becomes more real than reality itself, bearing in mind that that reality is also fraught with fiction since the reader is in fact totally aware that he is faced with a novel, not a true story.

The presentation of the stories of the various characters with their own titles "La petite marchande de prose" being that of Loussa's story of Zabo, for instance, Write to Kill, sqq or divided into numbered chapters Clara and Clarence's love story in Write to Kill, 36 sqq stresses the fictitious character of the whole. The flashbacks within the main narration are generally presented as a tale within a tale, with their own titles. Saussure emphasized that language is a system which pre-exists the individual speaker.

Contemporary theorists have referred to the subject as being spoken by language. When writers write they are also written. To communicate we must use existing concepts and conventions.

Wimsatt and Monroe C.Matura's solution is also to opt for a creolity, in lexis and in syntax, in order to convey the Caribbeanness of his work. Umberto Eco, Lector in Fabula. Quartet Books, It is not the translation itself but the translating, which revealed the key, which hinted at the clue to the solution to my reading problem, and which took me back to the original text.

However, like Miss Marple, he always happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong moment. The friends of the family represent most of the ethnic and cultural groups present in Paris French, Arabs, Asians, Slavs, etc. In his Le Crime de Mr. The West's idea of the Caribbean is a product of centuries of bungling and mistakes in identifying.