Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I am sincerely indebted to Lianne Charbit, who, as my graduate student, contributed months of hard work, examining a mass of raw manuscripts, excluding those already published, and producing the first clean copies of Marie-Magdeleine’s original stories, as well as the first raw drafts of the English translation. Lianne was also instrumental in reestablishing contact with Dr. Yolande Marie-Magdeleine in order to clarify some biographical details. Without Lianne, it is doubtful whether this volume would ever have been completed. I am also indebted...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xxxviii

In the course of research into the existence of French Caribbean women poets who may have been writing and publishing during the first half of the twentieth century, I frequently encountered references to a M.-M. Carbet, who, I was to discover later, had produced numerous written works across a range of genres: collections of poetry, novels, short stories, and even cookbooks. In terms of sheer volume of output, this woman remains, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Martinique’s most prolific woman writer to date. M.-M. Carbet, I subsequently...

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Le « Quimbois »

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pp. 1-6

Le vent sauvage des tropiques accourt du large. Nourri d’embruns, salé, gueulard, fleurant la marée, il fouaille les criques, s’acharne sur les cocotiers qu’il crible de volées de sable. Puis il galope vers les mornes.

Dans l’herbe des savanes, sur les talus des chemins, il pleut des fruits mûrs. Couleurs et parfums confondus, les corolles volent.

Cinq heures. Au loin, sur une cadence de biguine, les cloches appellent les fidèles. Dans les palmiers les merles sifflent leur « prière matinale » . Tandis qu’en chute bigarrée la volaille quitte les citronniers...

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Obeah

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pp. 7-12

The wild wind of the tropics rushes inland from the open sea. Fed with spray, salty, blustering, and perfuming the tide, it lashes coves and harasses coconut trees, riddling them with volleys of sand, then gallops towards the hills.

Ripe fruits rain down on the grassy savannas and on the slopes of the roadways. Flower petals fly about, a mix of colors and fragrances.

It’s five o’clock. In the distance, church bells chiming to the rhythm of a biguine summon the faithful. In the palm trees blackbirds chirp their “morning prayer. ” The sky turns rosy as a multicolored...

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Conte de Pâques: Le Retour

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pp. 13-20

Le râteau du croupier disperse, rassemble les jetons sur le tapis vert. Au gré du hasard qui n’a cure du drame des joueurs.

De même, insoucieux des questions secondaires de race et d’origine, le sort fantaisiste a conduit et mis en présence entre les murs de Paris—ce creuset des peuples—deux jeunes gens, Caroline et Robert.

Alors qu’elle est « montée » de sa province méridionale, lui, a bel et bien traversé l’Atlantique . A la rencontre l’un de l’autre, sans s’en douter....

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Easter Story: The Return

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pp. 21-28

The croupier’s rake scatters then reassembles the chips on the green mat—at the whim of chance that does not care a fig about the players’ predicament.

And so it was that whimsical fate, unconcerned about minor questions of race and origin, brought and put together two young persons, Caroline and Robert, on the streets of Paris—this melting pot of people.

While she “came up” from her province in the south of France, he had to cross the Atlantic. To meet each other, without a doubt.

To discover each other, love each other, start a family... They confidently decided to do this. And rightly...

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Conte de Noël

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pp. 29-32

S’il peut paraître logique de souligner ici l’usage courant de nos proverbes, il est superflu de préciser le sens de celui-ci « A chaque cochon, son samedi. »

Le samedi n’est-ce pas le jour du boudin? Tandis qu’autour du feu de bois les uns grattent d’une lame rapide les soies de la couenne ébouillantée, les autres s’affairent autour du baquet de sang encore chaud . Bouquets de persil frais, d’oignons odoriférants, piments verts, piments rouges, entassés auprès du hachoir.

Oui. Pour chaque porc se lève le samedi où, par tradition, s’accomplit son destin....

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Christmas Story

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pp. 33-36

If it may seem logical to stress here that our proverbs are commonly used, there is no need to specify the meaning of this one: “Every pig has his Saturday.”

Isn’t Saturday pudding day? Around the wood fire some folks are scraping off the bristles from the boiled skin of the pig with their quick blades, while others are bustling around the tub of still warm blood. Bunches of fresh parsley, fragrant onions, green peppers, and red peppers are stacked around the chopping board.

Yes. For each pig gets up on Saturday, when by tradition his destiny is accomplished. And it is like that for every...

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Le Cadeau

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pp. 37-42

—Fais voir un peu ces cartons, tu veux, ma tante? « Union française universitaire. Cercle culturel international. Comité d’Action du Spectacle. Club de Théâtre des Nations... Et puis encore...et encore. Sans compter les Associations des Gens d’Outremer! Tu as appartenu, tu appartiens à tous ces groupements? A cette kyrielle de syndicats...de Mouvements pour... ceci... contre cela?

—Pourquoi pas? C’est preuve de quoi, selon toi?

—Probablement de sens social, d’esprit de solidarité. J’ajouterais...d’un certain instinct...

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The Gift

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pp. 43-48

“Can I see these boxes, Auntie?—French University Union. International Cultural Group. Theater Action Committee. Nations Theater Club... And so on...and so forth. Not to mention the Association of Overseas People. You used to belong, you still belong, to all of these groups? To this host of unions...of movements for this, against that?”

“Why not? What does that mean, in your opinion?”

“Probably a social sense, a spirit of solidarity. I would add...a certain gregarious instinct...And not in any pejorative...

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Le Capitaine Se Marie

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pp. 49-56

Lèvres pincées, paupières brûlées de veilles, Cendrine tire l’aiguille avec application. Une guirlande de fleurs d’oranger part du col de la robe, s’attarde en bouquets à la ceinture, et court en volutes jusqu’au bas de la jupe.

Riche broderie sur un beau tissu. L’ouvrière n’a regardé ni à la peine, ni à la dépense. Voilà bientôt quinze ans qu’elle amasse des sous pour sa toilette de mariée et que son modèle est choisi.

Au coup de l’angélus du soir, elle pique les derniers points. Son épaule est douloureuse, ses tempes bourdonnent. Mais elle se signe...

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The Captain Is Getting Married

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pp. 57-64

Cendrine, her lips pursed, her eyelids smarting from too many sleepless nights, carefully pulls her needle through. A garland of orange blossoms starts at the neck of the dress, lingers at the belt as bouquets, and runs in spirals to the bottom of the skirt.

Rich embroidery on a beautiful fabric. This working woman hasn’t been concerned either about how much effort it took or how much it cost. For almost fifteen years now she has been saving up her coins for her bridal outfit and decided on the style...

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Les Deux Carrés de Larammée

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pp. 65-72

Maintenant que voici les lampes allumées, c’est bien volontiers que je vous dirai mon conte. Autrement si je m’y risquais en plein jour, savez-vous à quoi je m’exposerais? Ni plus ni moins qu’à me transformer sur l’heure en « panier ».

N’importe qui vous le jurerait ici. A ma place, là devant vous, il n’y aurait plus qu’un petit panier de paille. Vide. Mais oui, je serais « tournée en panier » sur l’heure.

Chacun le sait aussi et vous le dira, au besoin. Au temps où le diable encore gamin en culottes courtes jouait au cerf-volant dans les savanes, pour nous, la vie était pur contentement. Elle baignait...

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Larammée’s Two Squares

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pp. 73-80

Now that the lights are on, I’d be happy to tell you my story. Otherwise, if I took the chance to do so in the daytime, do you know what I would be exposing myself to? Nothing more or less than being transformed at once into a “basket.

” Anyone here would swear to you that that’s true. Here in front of you where I am standing, there would be only a small straw basket. Empty. Oh yes, I would be “turned into a basket” instantly.

Everybody knows it too and would tell you, if need be: At the time when the devil was still a kid in short pants, playing with...

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La Poupée de Son

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pp. 81-92

On chuchote dans la forêt qu’au village il y a une petite poupée de son à l’œil vif, aux dents de porcelaine, au sourire heureux.

Tartine en main et sac au dos, elle part tous les matins pour l’école. C’est à qui lui tiendra compagnie. Tellement ses petites camarades la trouvent agréable.

Sa bonne vieille institutrice aussi l’affectionne très fort. « Une élève si bien douée et si gracieuse! » répète-t-elle à tous les échos.

Un après-midi de vacances, la petite poupée se promène dans la campagne. Le vent chante dans les branches. Les feuilles dansent....

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The Straw Doll

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pp. 93-104

A rumor is going around in the forest that in the village there is a little straw doll with bright eyes, porcelain teeth, and a happy smile. She sets off for school every morning with her sandwich in her hand and her bag on her back. Everyone wants to keep her company. That’s because her little friends find her so pleasant.

Her old schoolteacher too is very fond of her. She is always saying: “Such a gifted and well-behaved pupil.”

One afternoon during the holidays, the little doll goes for a walk in the countryside. The wind is singing in the branches...

Bibliography

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pp. 105-106

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Afterword: On Translating Carbet

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pp. 107-110

Marie Magdeleine Carbet’s project in writing short stories was to inject Martinican folk culture into the larger corpus of French literary tradition and thus validate the Martinique identity and cultural expression. Martinican folk culture, however, features as one of its essential elements the language of the Martinican folk—i.e., Creole. Translating Carbet’s short stories, therefore, means translating Martinican folk culture and transposing it into a cultural equivalent within an Anglophone, including AngloAmerican, context. Standard English, even standard...