Patrick Chamoiseau Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 564 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bernstein, Richard. “History and Race Seasoned by Magic and Reality in an Epic of Martinique.” The New York Times 164 (March 31, 1997): B7. Sympathetic review of Texaco, hailed as brilliantly innovative. Relates the book to Caribbean history and praises the author for his originality of language and subject.

Burton, Richard. Afro Creole: Power, Opposition, and Play in the Caribbean. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997. General theoretical background information on issues of Chamoiseau and other writers sharing his cultural and ethnic background. Useful overview places his work in a larger context. Includes bibliography and index.

Farrell, Patrick. Review of School Days, by Patrick Chamoiseau. The New York Times Book Review, June 27, 1999, 20. Praises School Days for its mix of the supernatural and natural in the author’s vividly translated childhood memories.

Kundera, Milan. “The Umbrella, the Night World, and the Lonely Moon.” The New York Review of Books, December 19, 1991, 46-50. Cogent analysis of Solibo Magnificent, written before the novel was translated into English. Nobel Prize winner Kundera praises Chamoiseau’s innovative language, which combines French and Creole to form an aesthetically pleasing new voice.

Wiley, H. “Writing in a Dominated Country.” World Literature Today 72, no. 2 (1998): 441-442. Assesses the author’s work against the background of French colonizing of Martinique.