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The Belle Créole

Maryse Condé. Translated by Nicole Simek. Afterword by Dawn Fulton

BUY Cloth · 212 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813944210 · $52.50 · Apr 2020
BUY Paper · 212 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813944227 · $21.95 · Apr 2020
BUY Ebook · 212 pp. · ISBN 9780813944234 · $21.95 · Apr 2020

Possessing one of the most vital voices in international letters, Maryse Condé added to an already acclaimed career the New Academy Prize in Literature in 2018. The twelfth novel by this celebrated author revolves around an enigmatic crime and the young man at its center. Dieudonné Sabrina, a gardener, aged twenty-two and black, is accused of murdering his employer--and lover--Loraine, a wealthy white woman descended from plantation owners. His only refuge is a sailboat, La Belle Créole, a relic of times gone by. Condé follows Dieudonné’s desperate wanderings through the city of Port-Mahault the night of his acquittal, the narrative unfolding through a series of multivoiced flashbacks set against a forbidding backdrop of social disintegration and tumultuous labor strikes in turn-of-the-twenty-first-century Guadeloupe. Twenty-four hours later, Dieudonné’s fate becomes suggestively intertwined with that of the French island itself, though the future of both remains uncertain in the end.

Echoes of Faulkner and Lawrence, and even Shakespeare’s Othello, resonate in this tale, yet the drama’s uniquely modern dynamics set it apart from any model in its exploration of love and hate, politics and stereotype, and the attempt to find connections with others across barriers. Through her vividly and intimately drawn characters, Condé paints a rich portrait of a contemporary society grappling with the heritage of slavery, racism, and colonization.


[A] skillful translation.... What emerges... is a fascinating cross section of Guadeloupean society.

New York Times Book Review

Condé’s novel is a fascinating cross section of a world shaken by unrest and a troubled colonial history.

New York Times Editor's Choice

In this masterly work, Condé makes the complexity of Dieudonné’s situation evident and his suffering vividly real.

LibraryJournal, starred review

THE BELLE CRÉOLE, Maryse Condé’s twelfth novel, was originally published inFrench in 2001. The 2020 English translation does not disappoint. Nicole Simek’s translation, like those of Richard Philcox, retains the nuanced language and figures of the Frenchversion. It is rife with poetic prose that takes on the so-called modern malaise of the Caribbean: high unemployment, municipal strikes, violent crimes, decaying infrastructure, and family dispersal, among other indicators. By turns, the work is haunting, disconcerting, and illuminating, and it remains relevant and timely.

World Literature Today

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