Patrick Chamoiseau (shah-mwah-zoh) has established himself as one of the most important novelists and critical theorists of the Caribbean. He was born the son of George Chamoiseau, a postal worker, and his wife, Emile, a cook, in Fort de France, capital of the island of Martinique in the French West Indies.
Almost forty years later, Chamoiseau would describe the experiences of his childhood in his two memoirs, Childhood and School Days. Referring to himself as “le negrillon” (little black boy), he tells of his life at home, on streets filled with traders, shopkeepers and loiterers engaged in political discussions and in a school he found oppressive.
One of Chamoiseau’s most influential childhood experiences was the conflict between the official French, spoken at school, and the Creole used at his home, a mixed language incorporating elements of African languages spoken by slaves brought to the Caribbean island. For Chamoiseau, language becomes political. Creole brings with it the comfort of home. He views it as the linguistic expression of his mixed ethnic identity. French, on the other hand, is seen as the language of the authorities and the former colonial masters, whose culture is admired and copied by the upper classes of Martinique.
While Chamoiseau describes suffering at school, he nevertheless graduated with such good results that he was invited to study in France. At the age of twenty-two, he married...
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