Solibo Magnificent

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Set during Carnival time on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Patrick Chamoiseau’s SOLIBO MAGNIFICENT chronicles a frightening series of police abuse following the early morning discovery of Solibo’s dead body under a tamarind tree. Alerted to his fatal collapse after a night of spell-binding storytelling, the police under Chief Sergeant Philemon Bouafesse (whose name means “wood-ass” in English) and Chief Inspector Evariste Pilon round up Solibo’s last audience.

Convinced that Solibo has been murdered by some of his intoxicated listeners, the police brutalize them to extract a confession. Soon, they beat to death the woman Doudou Menar, who had reported Solibo’s death in the first place.

Things quickly deteriorate, and the less the police appear likely to solve the case, the more blatant becomes their misconduct. Senseless beatings follow the surviving witnesses to their lock-up cells.

Like his novel TEXACO (1992), which won Patrick Chamoiseau France’s Prix Goncourt award, SOLIBO MAGNIFICENT (which was written in 1988 and translated ten years later) constantly moves beyond its immediate subject matter and focuses on the question of the cultural identities of the various people of Martinique. Here, quite a few problems arise from the complicated sociolinguistic relationship of French and Creole, which are the two intertwined languages of the faltering police investigation.