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Patrick Chamoiseau’s novel Texaco, awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1992, is considered one of the most important French Caribbean novels. It is set in a slum called Texaco near Fort-de-France, the capital of the island of Martinique, an island in the Lesser Antilles that is administratively an Overseas Department of France, and thus part of the European Union. Originally a transport hub for the slave trade, and a vibrant multi-ethnic community, Martinique's history creates the backdrop of the novel.
The first major theme in the novel is the far-reaching effects of colonialism, especially on language. The novel reflects an ongoing debate about whether the pure French of France should be the language of government, business, literature, and schools or whether the creole that is spoken in the homes of many residents should take its place.
The second major theme is slavery. Although slavery ended 1848 in Martinique, the main character is a grandchild of freed slaves and many parts of the novel move backwards into the island's history and show how the history of slavery affects the present.
The next theme is religious. The urban planner tasked with destroying Texaco is named Christ, his arrival is preceded by “The Annunciation,” and the ending of the book with its transformation of Texaco is called “The Resurrection." This is not only a form of Christian allegory but also an allegory of the arrival of Christians on the island.
The final theme is the nature of story-telling itself and the way Marie-Sophie takes over the story of Martinique fusing personal with historical, past with present, and local with European.
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