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Texaco [Anglais] [Broché]

Patrick Chamoiseau , Rose-Myriam Rejouis , Val Vinokurov

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Description de l'ouvrage

16 avril 1998
"Chamoiseau is a writer who has the sophistication of the modern novelist, and it is from that position (as an heir of Joyce and Kafka) that he holds out his hand to the oral prehistory of literature."
--Milan Kundera

Of black Martinican provenance, Patrick Chamoiseau gives us Texaco (winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize), an international literary achievement, tracing one hundred and fifty years of post-slavery Caribbean history: a novel that is as much about self-affirmation engendered by memory as it is about a quest for the adequacy of its own form.

In a narrative composed of short sequences, each recounting episodes or developments of moment, and interspersed with extracts from fictive notebooks and from statements by an urban planner, Marie-Sophie Laborieux, the saucy, aging daughter of a slave affranchised by his master, tells the story of the tormented foundation of her people's identity. The shantytown established by Marie-Sophie is menaced from without by hostile landowners and from within by the volatility of its own provisional state. Hers is a brilliant polyphonic rendering of individual stories informed by rhythmic orality and subversive humor that shape a collective experience.

A joyous affirmation of literature that brings to mind Boccaccio, La Fontaine, Lewis Carroll, Montaigne, Rabelais, and Joyce, Texaco is a work of rare power and ambition, a masterpiece.
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Excerpt from Chapter 1

The Annunciation
(in which the urban planner who comes to raze the insalubrious Texaco Quarter instead finds himself in a Creole circus and faces a matadora's word)

Ti-Cirique's Epistle to the Shamefaced Word Scratcher: "At the task of writing, more than a few might have seen my noble pencil pointing to the Olympus of feeling with many an elegant line, as suits a worthy gentleman; many might have seen me, Universal Man, rise above the oxygen in the horizons, exalting the depths of man's raison d'être, the why of death, of love, and of God, in a French more French than that of the French, but not at all like you do it, you small pea lost in the pod of the monkeying of your Creolity or in Texaco's decrepit asbestos walls. Forgive me, Oiseau de Cham, but you lack Humanism--and especially grandeur."
Reply of the Pitiful One: Dear master, literature in a place that breathes is to be taken in alive . . .

Upon his entrance into Texaco, the Christ was hit by a stone--an aggression that surprised no one. In those days, truth be said, we were all nervous: a road called Pénétrante West had joined our Quarter to the center of City. That is why the ever-so-well-to-do from the depths of their cars had discovered our piled-up hutches which they said were insalubrious--and such a spectacle seemed to them contrary to the public order.

But, if they stared at us, we certainly stared back. It was a battle of eyes between us and City, another battle in a very ancient war. And in that war a cease-fire had just been broken, for the construction of that road could only bring a police crackdown to make us clear off; and we waited for that assault every minute of every day, and amid this nervousness the Christ made his appearance.

Iréné, the shark catcher, saw him first. Then Sonore, the câpresse, hair whitened by something other than age, saw him come. But only when Marie-Clémence, whose tongue, it is true, is televised news, appeared was everyone brought up to speed. Looking at him, one thought of one of those agents from the modernizing city council which destroyed poor quarters to civilize them into stacks of projects, or of one of those bailiffs from the old dirt-poor days who would enjoin us to disappear. That's probably why he was hit by the stone and lost that bit of blood which slid along his cheek. So who threw the stone? The answers to this question were so abundant that the real truth forever slipped through our fingers. Every leap year on Sunday evenings, we'd suspect the most terrible of Texaco's inhabitants: one nicknamed Julot the Mangy, who fears nothing but the return of his dead mama on earth. But, as soon as that cruel unbaptized mother who had scorched his childhood was six feet under, Julot had taken the precaution of securing her coffin beneath the seven invincible knots of a hanged man's rope. Feeling confident because of that precaution, he braved death, took God for one of his rummies, never bowed to fate. When chance sent him to us, to Texaco, he protected us from City villains and became a Boss whose benevolence covered only those who looked up at his balls--I mean: only his vassals. At each police onslaught, you could see him in the front row under a hail of billy clubs. All this to say that he was always ready with stone, acid, or blade, and on his own initiative, to welcome undesirable guests in a most brutal way.

But let's not lose the thread here--let's go back to the story stitch by stitch, and if possible one stitch before the other. We'll start with Iréné...

The Christ's coming according to Iréné

On that day, the shark catcher, my man Iréné, you know, had gotten up in the darkness, as the harvesting of these monsters required. Getting early to the sea, to the place where his Styrofoam floats signaled his bait, saved him from having to come home with nothing but the gnawed-up cartilage of hooked sharks. Having gulped down his coffee, he would stand up in the clean pre-dawn wind, then scrutinize his dreams which revealed the day's catch. He would call out to me from his doorstep the fish he would hook that day and confirm it on his return. That morning, his dreams were not prophetic. They held only the random ravings induced by Neisson rum. Three-quarters of the hour the sea gives up nothing for the bait. So Iréné went on his way without any swagger, already pondering where to dirty his secondhand mason's trowel after the fishing. He brought the oars, the fuel can, and the motor from his lean-to, dumped all of that in a wheelbarrow, and went up the Pénétrante toward his plastic gum-tree canoe, subsidized by our regional council development experts.

Along his way, he saw the Christ. The latter was just walking, nose in the wind, dazed, scrutinizing our shacks and their assault on the timorous cliffs. There was some repugnance in his stride. The stiffness in his bones spoke of his confusion. Iréné understood in a heartbeat: this strange visitor was coming to question the usefulness of our insalubrious existence. So Iréné looked at him as if he were a bag of flies dressed up as a man. The Christ did not see him or pretended not to and continued down the Pénétrante into Texaco.

Iréné rejoined his canoe where his crew awaited him: a dreadlocked waif, blindfolded by dark glasses, lost in the yellow phosphorescence of a navy oilskin. It was Joseph Granfer. They went about their shark business without Iréné even mentioning his deplorable meeting.

They didn't have to do much thinking before finding their line today. With Joseph balancing the canoe with his oar, Iréné grasped the horsehair thread with the irresistible power of his twenty-five years of making the same movements. My man Joseph is not tall like one of those Harlem basketball players, but he's not tiny either like those born under a low moon. He is thick like that, you know, arms toned by the weight of sharks, strong neck, thin legs, skin the peanut color of impassive chabins. So he pulled-pulled with regular movements which coiled the horsehair line behind him. Without consulting each other, they were about to pull in hooks that looked silly with their untouched bait, but when the line began to resist, they were certain of a catch. Since Iréné remained somber, however, Joseph thought he was just bringing up one of those black sharks with satanic pupils that no Christian would wish to eat. When the line pulled, Iréné held it tight. When it got loose, he brought it back quick. He adjusted his strength to the resistance so as not to tear apart whatever was coming from the abyss.

Suddenly the line became loose-loose. Then as he was mulling, a twelve-year-old memory warned him of danger. Swift, he wound his line around one of the planks of the wharf and told Joseph to hold on. A tremendous quake jolted the world. The horsehair whistled like a crystal. The canoe began to glide faster than water off a duck's back. Joseph, astonished, held it back with the oars. This lasted a few seconds and then everything came to a standstill like an alizé which suddenly dies.

Iréné began to haul in the thing with all his might, cautious centimeter by cautious centimeter. For four hours he yielded none of the hundred-and-twenty-meter thread. He became still at times, and the line, ready to break, sawed at his iron palms. He then murmured to the invisible enemy, It's me, you know me, Iréné Stanislas, child of Epiphanie of Morne Etoile, and of Jackot, jabot-wearing mulatto dandy...The line then got loose. Iréné brought it back with the greatest care. He punctuated each bit won with a yes breathed out in effort and exultation. Soon the whiteness of the line heralded the fishhooks. Joseph left his oars to go harpoon a light-colored shark, then another, which had already drowned and whose gut had spilled, then a third with its jaws still moving, then a fourth. He almost passed out cold when the blue of the sky seemed to recede before the immeasurable mass. On its back, crucified on the last fishhook, the thing looked upon him with all the meanness in the world in its so small eyes.

If he could have, Joseph would have cried out, but the monster's pupils, though half submerged, had sucked out all of his soul. Above the left side of the canoe, he was crossing himself in a hurry like a Catholic about to dearly depart, his fingers tapering off at the end all confused. Behind him, Iréné was still bringing in the line when he noticed the inexplicable frenzy of his crew's right hand. Then our shark catcher, without even bending down to confirm his intuition, with an imperceptible gesture, that's how fast he was, and yes, with great calm, cut the line.

The sea opened before a departing strength, and then, exploding in concentric circles, its wake pushed the canoe toward some far corner of the earth. Joseph, freed from the charm, placed his Tonton Macoute shades on his nose and began to mill with his oars in the direction of dry land (full throttle).

Iréné was sitting in the back like a pope, using each side of the canoe for an armrest, a warrior's beatitude etched on his face, all the more easy to imagine since he wore that expression among us for a long time after that. When Joseph, reassured by the proximity of the cliffs of Case-Pilote, put down the oars to question him about the distressing encounter, Iréné answered pompously: My son, in the days to come you're going to have a really beautiful fight, in this harbor here there's a mean shark that'd eat us good...Saying that, he was trembling the way I tremble in anticipation of the fight I'll have to put up.

They sold the four sharks in a drip-drop: Iréné was going round with them on his wheelbarrow, absentminded as if he were already in the future battle which would pit him, like me, against some awful kind of shark. Joseph hailed the vendor... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Biographie de l'auteur

Patrick Chamoiseau lives on Martinique. His other books include Chronique des sept misères and Solibo Magnifique. Texaco has been translated into fourteen languages. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.4 étoiles sur 5  12 commentaires
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent! Pure Oiseu de Cham! 5 juillet 2001
Par marcia m mayne - Publié sur
It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of this book...I had just recently finished reading another book with a more linear storyline, but I kept at it and was rewarded with a wonderful, highly nuanced, passionate, and an ultimately funny story told by Marie-Sophie, Texaco's protector. Texaco, the place, is the heartbeat of the Creole nation of Martinique. Texaco, the book is peppered with ideas that are more eloquently described by Creole words or phrases. Chamoiseau is a brilliant writer who for me recalls Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Umberto Eco. I highly enjoy his work.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Oiseau de Cham sings of New History 13 avril 1998
Par - Publié sur
From beginning to end, Chamoiseau provides a delightful yet difficult read. This challenging text is not for the faint of heart for it pushes the reader to read contrapuntally, against the grain; in fact, one is not so much reading as listening. A brilliant translation of the French captures this challenge. The prose is startingly original, and the turns of phrase will spark devotion.
The reader is asked to trace the history of Sophie Laborieux as she labors to carve a space for herself in a History that will not hear her. Texaco represent the dangers in all post-imperial nations not only external, as the title suggests, but also internal, the loss of imagination, creativity, heterodoxy. What emerges, in short, is a personal yet univeral narrative, one that bridges the gap between story telling and history making.
This text aligns itself with other notable works by Amin Maalouf, Salman Rushdie, and Ben Okri.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Beautifully writted and translated mosaic 28 août 1998
Par - Publié sur
Chamioseau has written a beautifully compelling novel that traces the sources of conflict and conciliation among the peoples of Martinique through the experiences over two centuries of a father and daughter. Told largely through the eyes of Marie-Sophie, the daughter, the book traces the emergence of Martinican society through her experiences and those of her father, Esternome, within, without, above, below, beyond and through all elements of the island culture. Marie-Sophie and Esternome live and brush against the lives of each of the contributing elements of modern Martinican society -- plantation slaves, maroon escapees, free blacks, Creoles, poor white underclass, and white "beke" aristocracy. Each tile of this mosaic is lovingly painted, whether it displays steadfast endurance, sexual bliss, or stubborn cruelty. Each section can be surprising as displayed under a different light. Viewed as a whole, the glory of the complete work surpasses, but can not be distingushed from, the sum of its parts. Chamoiseau thus demonstrates that the Martinican civilization is itself the harmonious sum of seemingly dissonant parts. Collective history is made up of individual stories -- some profound, some profane. The stories -- the lives -- of the strugglers, the stragglers can not be ignored. Their lives are the history, the essence, the being of the island. They must not be bulldozed into oblivion. Texaco must survive.
8 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant. 28 octobre 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur
At first, I couldn't get through the first two pages. So I began in the middle and after a chapter, went back to page one. My copy is now tattered; I've re-read it so many times. This book is brilliant. Esternome, Marie Sophie and the rest of them leave this world doing what so many of us fail to. They taste and hear life in all its dimensions. Three cheers for Oiseau de Cham. He really breaks it down.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Seems like a poor translation 4 juillet 2012
Par Peter J. Krupa - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Translating is a difficult thing, and I imagine it's more difficult when you're dealing with Creole and French and language itself is the theme, and no translation is ever finished... but that said... the translators make some really odd choices that make reading this book difficult. They tend to maintain what I assume to be the original Latin phrasing and cognates. I don't speak French, but I'm fluent in Spanish and translate from that language, and in this book I've run across many awkward latin-like phrasings that make me wince. Just two examples:

"It's complicated but here's the real thread: the best bearing was a skin without slavery's color." (71)

First of all, a more natural way to say this would be "the real thread is this" but second and most importantly, what does "here's the real thread" mean? That's a metaphor that just doesn't exist in English, as far as I know. And what does "the best bearing" mean? I can sort of guess from context, but no one would write a sentence like that in English. Similarly, somewhere I saw a reference to someone's head as a "pumpkin." Maybe that makes sense in French/Creole (it definitely makes sense in Spanish) but in English, if you want to compare someone's head to a vegetable, it's a gourd, or a melon.

"Sunday afternoon became a rite for him." (81)

I imagine the French here is similar to the Spanish, rito... quick dictionary check says maybe "rites"? But you don't really say "rite" in English unless you're being very specific/archaic. You say ritual. Like, a Sunday-afternoon ritual. I don't want to be nit-picky, but the text is full of little things like this, and they bug me. It's up to every individual translator to what degree he or she wishes to maintain the tone of the source language, its unique metaphors, images, etc. They may have good reasons for the choices they made. It's an art, not a science. But to my taste, this translation lacks grace, and the text ends up feeling choppy and Latin.
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