June 13, 2021

Patrick Chamoiseau’s hyphens

“The Storyteller, the night and the basket”, by Patrick Chamoiseau, Seuil, 272 p., € 19, digital € 14.

Patrick Chamoiseau does not seem to have been alone or immobile during the first confinement, in the spring of 2020. His new book shows him surrounded by emblematic figures of his work, walking along “Towards the understanding of the art which is the [s]yen “. The author of the novel Texaco (Gallimard, Prix Goncourt 1992) long ago finished with the fiction that “tells” stories. In 2016, he confided to the “World of Books” that he could now only write “Bizarre narrative organisms”, “multiform and chaotic existential explorations”. Completed in May 2020 in a “Paris fantôme”, Le Conteur, the night and the basket takes us on unexpected peregrinations.

A space for creation

His new quest, presented as never having to succeed, nor reach a “Illusory transparency”, here takes the form of a ” Round “, or, in the tradition of the West Indian evenings, the assembly formed around a man who expresses himself by dancing or giving his voice. Only at night, at the risk of being transformed into a basket. A Round is a space of creation, commissioned by drumming, drummers. “We couldn’t find a better place in the world to share what we carry in ourselves, so…”, explains Patrick Chamoiseau.

Read also this meeting of 2016: Patrick Chamoiseau, a man with a mother

Between two quadrilles, he gives voice, leading us into an invigorating “Literary seizure”. It revolves around a founding moment that the writer likes to imagine with that of the first Creole storyteller: the emergence of the literature of the Americas. The scene occurs in the XVIIe century in a plantation in the West Indies. At night, during a funeral vigil, a “Old nigger” entered the circle of torches. “There are only shadows left / The order put in place by the master fades / The night defeats the world. » The assembly froze listening to this “Primordial storyteller”. It carries the memory of the African continent obliterated by the deportation of millions of slaves; breath “From life to death” ; resists by showing by what detour it is possible to escape violence, to continue to exist.

From this founding moment, Chamoiseau made the matrix of all literature. Obviously born from a “Moment of catastrophe” which forces it to explore new avenues, new possibilities. Through the figure of the Creole storyteller, the author also considers his own “Literary maturation”. He who comes “Of a composite people, without absolutes”, born from “Terrifying shock (…) orchestrated by slavers and colonialists ” between all the continents. “What to do with this? “, he asks himself. To create, to recreate are the only possible answers, as the repeated use of the hyphen and the neologisms made by the author attest.

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