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  • Ici-Là: Place and Displacement in Caribbean Writing in French
  • Nick Nesbitt
Ici-Là: Place and Displacement in Caribbean Writing in French Ed. Mary Gallagher Cross/Cultures 62. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003. xxix + 308 pp. ISBN 90-420-0886-5 paper.

Ici-Là: Place and Displacement in Caribbean Writing in French collects articles originally presented at the conference "Place and Displacement in Caribbean Writing in French," held at the University College Dublin in September 1999. The volume addresses, in the editor's words, "the complex, unsettled, and dislocated relation to place that characterizes much Caribbean writing" (xiv). The essays as a whole testify to the composite modulations of history and identity arising from the primary and founding displacements that were the Middle Passage and the subsequent erasure of any primary cultural identity in the plantation system of the French Caribbean colonies. The volume taken as a whole critically underscores the tendency of this field of cultural production to overflow the bounds of any insular limitation (figured reductively in the recent debate over "Créolité"): "French Caribbean writing, driven as it is by a hypertrophied theoretical tropism, explicitly claims prophetic status and universal validity, as though the Caribbean were the laboratory of a universal future, in a world compressed by an ever-accelerating approximation of places and of cultures" (xvii). It ranges over a diverse series of topics, figured by the editor under four categories: "I: Sites of the Caribbean Imagination; II: The Place of the Text: Inscribing Temporality over Topography; III: The Caribbean: One Space, Many Places; IV: Location and Relation, or Relating Locations" (xxv-xxvi).

Contributors to the volume include many of the most respected critics of the field, such as Celia Britton, Bernadette Cailler, Mary Gallagher, Kathleen Gyssels, Maximilien Laroche, and Ernest Pépin. Articles of note include Pépin's investigation of "The Place of Space in the Novels of the Créolité Movement,"offering a participant's perspective on that literary movement's "renew[al of] the vision and function of space in the Caribbean novel" (21), and Britton's analysis of "Place, Textuality, and the Real in Glissant's Mahagony." The latter draws apart the multiple strands of Glissant's textual "weave," understood by Britton as a "plurality of separate places"; it traces their "echoes and resonances" across time and space, as both difference and repetition, to conclude that "Glissant is working towards a new relationship between textuality and realism" (82, 98). Bernadette Cailler—the author's modesty notwithstanding—offers a probing and erudite inquiry into the relatively understudied poetry of Edouard Glissant, to show the complex interactions it engenders between poetic [End Page 135] "locutor(s) and their locutee(s)" (102) in Le sel noir (1960) and the recent volume Les grands chaos (1994). Maximilien Laroche discusses the "betrayals or mistranslations" (125) of Haitian displacement seen in the transformations of signifiers such as tontons macoutes and vaudou in both Haitian history and literary texts by Jacques Roumain, Jacques Stephen Alexis, and Dany Laferrière. Other texts examine issues of place and displacement in the works of Aimé Césaire, René Depestre, Emile Ollivier, Ernest Pépin, Gisèle Pineau, and Simone Schwarz-Bart, while still others address a wide range of historical and theoretical concerns, including Toussaint Louverture's internment at the Fort de Joux, Chaos Theory, questions of identity and difference, and the complex relation of Irish and Antillean historical and subjective identities. In all, this volume constitutes a wide-ranging and insightful contribution to Postcolonial Francophone Studies.

Nick Nesbitt
Miami University, Ohio


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