Schwarz-Bart, Simone 1938–
Born in Guadeloupe and now living in France, Ms Schwarz-Bart wrote in her novel, The Bridge of Beyond, of "the most oppressed and proudest Negroes" of Guadeloupe.
The French in the West Indies were brutes with a special taste for the pastoral. They gave it expression by calling their slaves Icare, Thisbe and Piram. Not surprisingly, the blacks in Simone Schwarz-Bart's novel [The Bridge of Beyond], set in Guadeloupe, have equally sonorous names, like Victory and Minerva. The central character's name is Télumée. The novel appears to be a memoir of tropical childhood. Full of West Indian pastoral, it is as sweet and rosy a vision of the islands as one is likely to get. It is written in a mood of bemused nostalgia and celebrates the fulness and vitality of life in ramshackle villages….
The tale's difficulty is in the elliptical way it is presented. It is like a fable in the form of a ballad, which is to say it is poetical but not always clear. Its langorous sense of ease, dangerously close to delusion, gives scope to Simone Schwarz-Bart's considerable gift for describing the trees and flowers of her native island. It stops short, however, of anything remotely contentious or disturbing. (p. 41)
Mel Watkins, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 17, 1974.
Simone Schwarz-Bart's novel [The Bridge of Beyond] is one of the most low-keyed narratives I can recall reading. Out of violent events she has made something beautiful, something poetic; the lyricism of her style enchants. (p. 26)
Charles R. Larson, in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1974 by The New Republic, Inc.), April 6, 1974.
[What] is striking about [The Bridge of Beyond] is its coherence, its internal fidelity. The style from time to time may seem too oracular—it seems so to me—yet this language, highly clausal, languorous, deliberately unnatural, was chosen as the equivalent of a complex and ironic experience….
The novel is an act of salvage, written out of emotional memory, with full consciousness of loss—the great charm doesn't reduce the sadness. And if it has the most wandering of stories, it is beautifully plotted, the author always sure of her structural effects. (p. 50)
Peter Straub, in New Statesman (© 1975 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), January 10, 1975.
[In The Bridge of Beyond] Simone Schwarz-Bart writes about three generations of staunch women, who patch up lives smashed by humiliated men. The women … experience happiness and varieties of its opposite as a physical condition, and through men, who would explain their own uneasiness or despair in terms of what the world has done to them. [The novel breaks] through any such bleakly generalised accounts of what relationships between men and women are about because of the quite particular lives which flourish in them….
Telumee, who tells her own story and her grandmother's, spends her life within an area of a few square miles on [her] island and learns neither to read nor write. The novel's success is partly due to the language which has been invented for her, which works as the expression of an individual intelligence informed and confined by the traditions and realities such a woman might have to respond to…. Telumee weaves her own way through what happens to her, listening selectively to the words of traditional wisdom collected and transmitted as a continuous litany to ease lives grounded in the expectation of misery. It is the tentativeness and humanity of these sage offerings which make the novel so moving and so real. (p. 67)
Jane Miller, in The New Review (© The New Review Ltd., 11 Greek Street, London W1V 5LE), February, 1975.
Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle [published in America as The Bridge of Beyond] is a remarkable book for its stylistic grace and poetic containment of an often brutal reality (a case of what is known as realismo mágico in Spanish America), for its...
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