Critical Evaluation

A native of Guadeloupe who also lived in Africa, Maryse Condé received a doctorate in comparative literature from the Sorbonne in France. Her later novels include Hérémakhonon (1976; English translation, 1982), Ségou: Les Murailles de terre (1984; Segu, 1987), Ségou II: La Terre en miettes (1985; The Children of Segu, 1989), Moi, Tituba, sorcière noire de Salem (1985; I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, 1992), La Vie scélérate (1987; Tree of Life, 1992), and Traversée de la mangrove (1989; Crossing the Mangrove, 1995). Because of her exploration of race and experimentations in narrative technique, she has been compared to the Caribbean writer Aimé Césaire as well as to William Faulkner. Noting the influence of Faulkner and Césaire on her work, she points out in an interview, As far as Crossing the Mangrove is concerned, I had in mind and in fact on my desk was Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying [1930]. It is strange that when I think of intertextuality, I have in mind two American writers [William Faulkner and Philip Roth]. I don’t have any French writers in my mind. I don’t have any Latin American writers in mind either. And I don’t have any West Indian writers except Césaire, who is in everybody’s mind.

The major theme of A Season in Rihata is the power of the past to influence and affect the lives of individuals in the present. Marie-Hélène seeks to resolve her guilt over the affair with Madou and a romantic relationship she had with Olnel, a Haitian man with whom her sister Delphine fell in love while they were students in France. Delphine, Christophe’s mother, commits suicide when she realizes that Olnel, the father of her child, will never marry her. Christophe seeks to order his present world by finding out information regarding his biological mother and father so that he can have a sense of self and identity. Zek, too, is haunted by the past, feeling as if some failure within himself led to his...

(The entire section is 839 words.)