Among those who have sought beyond négritude for a more realistic approach to the problem of Caribbean identity, perhaps the most assured and convincing is the Martinican author Édouard Glissant. (p. 361)
In place of négritude, Glissant offers in his poetry, novels, and theater a new world view, of which the Caribbean is the center. Africa remains present in his system of thought, but not as a metaphor for black beauty or vanished dignity: Africa is, for Glissant, an instructive actuality, a paradigm of social cooperation. The African pattern of sharing, the prizing of the community above the individual, is opposed by Glissant to the European cult of personality and free will which militates against the concepts of participation and universality. (p. 362)
Poetry, in European tradition the most arcane of arts, is seen by Glissant as an obligation to explore and reveal, to understand the nature of things and to share this understanding. Where the conventional European lyric was content to immortalize an "anecdote"—a moment of joy or suffering—modern poetry should be concerned with man and his destiny, not with men and their personal concerns. (pp. 362-63)
The idea of history is omnipresent in Glissant's work: much of his poetry is devoted to what he has called "a prophetic vision of the past." Glissant shares with many West Indians a desire to restore and elucidate the vast...
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Glissant's third novel [Malemort] may be viewed as a polymorphous narrative as well as a compendium of the author's aesthetic and ideological tenets. Like most of his writing, Malemort deals with the condition of Glissant's homeland, Martinique, and therewith ramifies into a multi-directional search for a definition of Antillanité, a concept that Glissant wants to substitute for the much exalted and maligned Négritude. Among other things, Antillanité is predicated on the recognition of a collective consciousness of the Caribbean peoples, still to be distilled and instilled. If, by and large, Glissant's Renaudot-prize-winning first novel, La Lézarde, can be considered as an exploration of Martinican space in its dichotomous opposites of mountain/plain, sea/land, country/city, his second novel, Le Quatrième Siècle, is laid out on a predominantly temporal matrix, evoking "une vision prophétique du passé," the past which has been lost and is to be reconstituted from folkloric legends and recollections by means of historic research and creative sublimation. Malemort attempts a further integration of Martinican space and time, which are intricately enmeshed in the experience and consciousness of the Martinican people. Thus, there is no chronological plot line as the narrative scans back and forth between 1788 and 1974. 1788 is the year when a slave ship brought over from Africa Glissant's ancestors and the first...
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