In an interview with Mr. James Ferguson, an English writing critic, Patrick Chamoiseau, the Martiniquan novelist, complained that "Martinique is cut off from the rest of the Caribbean". It is a statement which recognises the extent to which various forms of colonialism has fragmented the region into self-contained linguistic pockets, giving rise to cultural and other forms of isolation. As a result, different parts of the Caribbean find it difficult to communicate or be in touch with other parts.
To the English speaking Caribbean, their French counterparts, especially the writers and other exemplars of culture, are mostly unknown. This explains why a writer of such brilliance as Patrick Chamoiseau is not as well known as he should be to the English speaking Caribbean. It is a remarkable fact that a West Indian who has won the highest literary prize in France, the Prix Goncourt, for his novel "Texaco" still remains obscure, even though he is the compatriot of such distinguished West Indian writers as Franz Fanon and Aimé Cesairé. Interestingly enough, it is Derek Walcott from the Island of Saint Lucia, with an understanding of the French historical background in the Caribbean and his knowledge of Creole (Creolese in Martinique and Saint Lucia is roughly similar), who was among the first to recognise Chamoiseau's great talent. His now celebrated letter which appeared in the August 1997 New York Review edition of books goes a long way to preparing the ground for an understanding of Chamoiseau's work. Walcott [Dereck], in a sense, is in the perfect position to do so because he enjoys a friendship with Chamoiseau. Who therefore is Patrick Chamoiseau?
Patrick Chamoiseau was born in 1953 in Fort de France, Martinique, where he still lives. He studied law at the University of Martinique and in France. Patrick Chamoiseau revealed in the interview, to which reference has already been made, that he is a full time probation officer in Fort de France and described his...
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