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Introduction The world in which we live is at crossroads of sorts. On the one hand, peoples and societies attempt to assert their identities, while on the other, these very peoples and societies must invariably make do with rapprochement, by virtue of the simple logic of living, acting and interacting together.
This write-up therefore sets out to examine Leonora Mianos novel, La saison de lombre, through the prism of Edouard Glissants concept of creolisation. A brief summary of the novel will be given, after which a brief presentation will be made of the analytical approach used in this work. Leonora Miano was born in Douala-Cameroon in to a middle class family; her mother was a principal, while her father was a pharmacist.
The young Miano developed a liking for books because her literate parents were equally book lovers. She voraciously devoured all literature texts found in the family library, realising as she read with relish about other people and parts of the world, that there were very few stories about the African condition.
She gradually developed a love for writing and by the age of eight, she started writing. She went to France for further studies in , to study and obtain a diploma in Anglo-American literature. In , she published her first novel, LIntrieur de la nuit Plon , an uncompromising novel about Africas violent and barbaric past, a novel which brought her intoq controversial limelight. Since then she has published six other novels, a dramatic piece and a collection of essays.
And evidently her writings, with their grave and controversial perspectives about the marginalised, derided and misrepresented African, have mellowed to the extent that she is today a unique voice among writers of the Diaspora.
Her novel, La saison de lombre, tells the story of slavery from a hitherto unexploited perspective the ingeniously rare point of view of the victims who once upon a time lost dear ones to slave catchers and slave masters. At last these voiceless wounded of the earth finally have a voice Leonora Maino articulating their plight.
The action in La saison de lombre is set during the slave trade, in a sub-Saharan village called Mulongo. It tells the story of the villagers struggling to cope with the shocking disappearance of twelve of its members ten youths and 2 elders in the aftermath of a mysterious fire. The novel opens with survivors rebuilding the village and musing over the mishap the disappearance after the conflagration.
In the midst of all this activity, the mothers of the missing boys are brought together and quarantined in a house on the outskirts of the village so that their remorse should not permeate and infect the rest of the village. One night these sequestered women hear the voices of their lost sons in their dream; simultaneously, a strange mist surrounds their building, alerting the clan that something is amiss. This mysterious happening induces the Mulongos to go out in search for the whys and wherefores of their calamities and of those auguries.
Eyabe, one of the mother victims, joins in the search. She leaves the village, contrary to tradition, in search for the land of water, where she is convinced she will find her son. On his part, the village leader Mukano has taken his personal guard with him on a mission to find his missing subjects without waiting for the traditional council to give its blessing and accord.
The novel presents the diverse adventures of these hounded, haunted and unsuspecting protagonists as they struggle with the traumatic effects of slavery, which the reader already surmises, is the reason behind the mysterious disappearances. The Mulango people have their supreme being Nyambe Lui-mme their local gods and ancestral lore, their other beliefs as well as their own specific traditional lifestyle.
They face the fire and the disappearances with stoic fortitude, even if with anxiety and fear. This is why they perform rites to protect themselves against bad spirits. Nevertheless, some of them the most perceptive and intuitive one come to realize that the truth is to be found elsewhere. The Mulongos live in a remote village, far from the ocean, and know only their close neighbors, the Bwele clan, who they enjoy trade relationships with.
As the action unfolds, these villagers slowly and painfully discover that it is this wealthier neighbouring village, which is responsible for their plight. The Bwele, it turns out, have been trading captives from other villages with the coastal people and with European traders in exchange for gifts. As Mathilde Billaud-Walker notes in her 06th February on-line review, this novel, like her earlier ones enables Leonora Miano to demonstrate how an oppressed people resisted, perished, and confronted the loss of their world.
She further notes that Miano shows how every human being is like Eyabes outlandish boy companion, Bana une multitude so described by the Mukudi who takes them away. Billaud-Walker concludes that Miano thus reveals a hidden, invisible part of sub-Saharan history, as well as uncovers a trace of its ancestors. The theoretical framework to be used herein is the socio-critical approach. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia notes that the word socio-critical for an approach was first coined by Pierre Duchet in , as an off-shoot of earlier postulations by Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Georg Lukacs and Lucien Goldman.
New perspectives were developed by and through the influence of the educational sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, of Jacques Dubois, Rene Girard, Pierre Zima and Edmond Cros, to name but these few. The perspective adopted will be Cross, presented in his seminal text La Sociocritique 7 , in the following words: La sociocritique est une discipline While the sociological approach takes its departure from the society and attempts to see parallels of societal reality in a work of art, the socio-critical approach begins its probe from the text before looking at the society which the author tries to capture.
The socio-critical approach, with its text-context rather than context-text trajectory of analysis, therefore has the advantage of giving the literary text precedence and primacy over societal reality. Among other things, Cros develops his theory with concepts like geno-texts and phenotexts, borrowed from Julia Kristerva who equally borrows them from the generative theories of the Soviet linguist Saumjan-Soboleva.
In Chapter Five of his text, Theory and Practice of Criticism, which chapter is published online in Theory and History of Literature , he indicates that while pheno-text generally refers to the printed text, conceived as one of the possible actualizations of language in the Saus-surian sense of langue , the term genotext demonstrates something more complex if not more ambiguous.
Cros, like Kristerva, situates textual actualization within a broad and undifferentiated whole and goes on to indicate that genotext is the mechanism dispositif of the history of the language and the signifying practices that textual actualization is capable of knowing: the potentialities of every existing and future concrete language. As Cros further notes, his use of pheno-text and geno-text differs from Kristervas by its predication of the geno-text to the pheno-text: the genotext exists only in these 3.
This falls within the text-context-reaction paradigm-pattern, which socio-criticism advocates as it strives to shield artistic works from the unwarranted aspersions born of sociological bias that predicates their success on their faithful representation of societal reality. This write-up will now briefly present Glissants biography and go ahead to broach those seminal concepts that inform his writing. Edouard Glissants biography and philosophy The following section briefly presents the biography of post colonial writer cum critic, Edouard Glissant, and proceeds to examine the main underpinnings of his philosophy: a war-cry against cultural atavism and a militant advocacy for creolity-creolisation on the one hand, as well as an avant-garde articulation of a tout-monde polity where displaced children of the world can find themselves at home.
He studied at the Lyce Schoelcher, named after the abolitionist Victor Schoelcher, where the poet Aime Cesaire had studied and to which he returned as a teacher. Csaire had met Leon Damas there; later in Paris they would join with Leopold Sedar Senghor, a poet and the future first president of Senegal, to formulate and promote the concept of negritude. Csaire did not teach Glissant, but did serve as an inspiration to him although Glissant sharply criticized many aspects of his philosophy.
Another student, their contemporary in the school at that time, was Frantz Fanon. In , he established, with Paul Niger, the separatist party, Front Antillo-Guyanais pour lAutonomie, which led to Charles de Gaulle barring him from leaving France between and When he finally returned to Martinique in , he founded the Institut martiniquais d'tudes, as well 4.
He shuttled between Martinique, Paris and New York. He would become Distinguished Professor of French at the CUNY Graduate Centre and later, in , Jacques Chirac would appoint him head of a new cultural centre devoted to the history of the slave trade. Eminent writer and critic with eight novels, eleven poetry anthologies, one dramatic composition and fifteen essays, Glissant was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in He died in Paris, France at the age of At this juncture, effort will be made to briefly but succinctly capture the main props of his philosophy.
Those of them which could be said to have influenced Miano are the sole concern herein. The first concept is that of tout-monde, a kind of avant-garde mondialisation worldisation? Born in the Carribeans with its heritage dating back more than three centuries of ex-slaves, indigenous Carribeans, European colonialists, East Indian and Chinese coolies indentured servants , Glissant grew to acquire or lay claims to a sort of global culture.
He came to consider himself as a composite of cultures, not just the quintessence of one culture. Glissant, like we note from the biographical snippet above, was the Carribean composite already mentioned, just like he was a citizen of the French metropolis and an American he worked for long in New York.
The Wikipedia biographical entry makes it clear that in his essay on Faulkner, Glissant in heroic manner, attempts to trace parallels between the history and culture of the Creole Carribean and those of Latin America and the plantation culture of the American south.
Thus Glissants notion of tout-monde realistically asserts that people in contact must invariably change and adopt a culture, and ethos richer than that which they initially boasted of. We now examine what he has to say about creolisation. Negritude was a monolithic view that defined its proponents in terms of their cultural, racial and historical ties to the African continent.
The philosophy vociferously rejected French colonial political hegemony as well as notions of French cultural, intellectual, racial and moral 5. Csaire and his contemporaries considered the shared black heritage of members of the African Diaspora as a source of power and self-worth for those oppressed by physical and psychological violence of colonialism.
However, later writers such as Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jean Bernabe and Raphael Confiant came to reject the black and proud posturing of the writers of the negritude movement. In the early s, Glissant advanced the concept of Antillanite "Caribbeanness" which claimed that Caribbean identity could not be described solely in terms of African descent.
They came up with a Creolit movement of creolistes which stressed the unique historical and cultural roots of the Carribean region which made it homeland to a multiplicity of cultures, which made the region a potpourri of cultures and so consequently made the indigenous people embodiments of all these cultures.
As Sabu Broeck notes in an online article entitled White Fatigue Hybridity that explains Glissants concept, people with a composite culture who cannot deny nor mask their hybrid composition, who could not sublimate in the notion of a mythical pedigree do not need the notion of Genesis, Sabu goe further with the explanation: the idea of creolisation demonstrates that henceforth it is no longer valid to glorify unique origins that the race safeguards and prolongs, noting the a necessity to deconstruct It is in these terms that Glissant puts across the idea that there are no pure cultures, or cultures in their primal, atavistic state and that there are no superior or inferior cultures.
The article Creolit, on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, note that Patrick Chamoiseau and his co-authors, writing Eloge de la crolit after Glissant had propounded the idea of creolity, describe crolit as "an annihilation of false universality, of monolinguism, and of purity. This is reason why many crolistes publish their novels in both Creole and French. Attention should now be turned to Leonora Mianos La saison de lombre for indicators of semblance or similarity in the concepts propounded by both writers.
This section sets out to examine the events, characters and aesthetics in Leonora Mianos novel in order to show aspects and ideas that re-assert Glissants main concepts. Let it be noted that both writers have resemblances beginning from the perspectives of their personal history, their commitment and their effort. Glissant could never be pigeon-holed into one cultural entity, being at once a culturally complex Carribean before being a French, American and world citizen, by virtue of travel.
It is same with Miano, who encapsulates and her Cameroonian, French and world identities into one composite whole and who loudly and proudly asserts faith in that identity. And when we look at the publications by both, we marvel at the similarities.
A table should make the point more evident: Author. It becomes very evident that Miano in her youthful forties might still take the opportunity to equal or even outmatch her more prolific deceased mentor if she keeps that prodigious talent alive. Time will tell. The next thrust of this write-up will show how Mainos novel, La saison de lombre, answers or adheres to Glissants concepts, beginning with the debunking of cultural atavism and the propounding of a sort of belief in creolisation or hybridity.
Certainly La saison de lombre has a glossary that attempts to explain these strange words at the end, but this does not cancel the fact that the novels prose reads with its own haunting sublime quality, contributed to no little extent by the creole in which it is couched.
Some few examples will suffice to make the point clear. Each of the character names Miano uses is traditional and is loaded with significance. Ebeise the village mid-wife has a name which in Douala signifies cuisson or cooking makes reference to the characters meticulous nature, evident throughout the text.
The name Eyabe means birth in the language of the sawas; 7. On its part, the name Bana is the plural word children. The reader recalls what Eyabe is told when she asks Fils or Mukudi Ebusi son to give the little one food. The reply is curt and enigmatic: Mere, celui-ci est une multitude p.
Bana in the novel is a re-incarnated essence in the class of Toni Morrisons character, Beloved, in the eponymous novel. Bana represents the missing children, and he accompanies the strong-willed, self-opinionated Eyabe on her anguished search; when Eyabe in the end finds out the truth, Bana returns to the void whence he came, leaving in his wake on a pool of water. Eyabe searches in vain for him: Se yeux cherchent Bana. A lendroit quoccupait lenfant it y a encore quelques instants, il ne reste quune flaque deau p.
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