Chamoiseau – Solibo Magnificent

Chamoiseau, Patrick. Solibo Magnificent. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. Print.

The story of Solibo Mangnificent composed by Patrick Chamoiseau is an example of oraliture in that it combines the devices of both orature and literature. The “telling” of the story uses oral devices throughout the story, but then in the second section “After the Word: Document of the Memory” we are given a fuller “telling” of the story that approximates the way Solibo spoke with the people the night of his death. Here Solibo speaks of a place after death without French colonization; without “Arif-France, no bekes plantations or factories, or big stores (172).

In the third section, “Bringing the Word,” Rose-Myriam Réjouis gives the afterword supplying a greater context to understand Chamoiseau’s work. Réjoius helps the reader to understand Chamoiseau as the “word scratcher” making way for a “new” story writing now that Solibo, oral Créole expression is dying/ dead (177). She concludes that “Chamoiseau’s text is thus a tale about the birth of his own linguistic creativity (181); one that explores the plurality of voices – Créole and French and oral and literary.

Chamoiseau also charts out new territory by writing in his own invented language, one that neither those from Martinique of France speak, Fréole (a hybrid of French and Créole).


Fanon – The Negro and Language

Fanon, F. “The Negro and Language.” Black skin, white masks (1967): 17-40. Print.

In this chapter, Frantz Fanon used the example of the “Negro” in Antilles as an example of challenges that colonized people face regarding language. Blacks in Antilles, specifically Martinique, were pressured to speak French as opposed to Creole. By speaking French, Fanon explained that Blacks could become more “white;” achieve higher social status and think of themselves as being equal to whites in society as can be seen in his personal example:

“To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. The Antilles Negro who wants to be white will be the whiter as he gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is. Rather more than a year ago in Lyon, I remember, in a lecture I had drawn a parallel between Negro and European poetry, and a French acquaintance told me enthusiastically, ‘At bottom you are a white man.” The fact that I had been able to investigate so interesting a problem through the white man’s language gave me honorary citizenship.” (38)

Fanon explicitly extended his example  of the “Negro” in Antilles to represent larger issues of colonized people. He broadly defined colonized people as “every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality” (18). Fanon detailed the process in which the colonized is expected and pressured to conform to the colonizer’s standards, particularly as it relates to language, and the types of alienation that can occur as a result.

Fanon argued that the European had a fixed image of the Black man (same can be said for whites in the U.S. and throughout the world in accordance to his colonial analogy). Language is used to reinforce this image: “to make him talk pidgin is to fasten him to the effigy of him, to snare him, to imprison him, the eternal victim of an essence, of an appearance for which he is not responsible” (35).

Fanon also pointed out the potential for upward mobility in race and social class through the acquisition of the colonial language  or language that bears more social capital, in this case, French. However, even when this mastery is accomplished, Fanon asserted that Blacks are still seen as suspect and outsiders:

“… what I am trying to say is that there is no reason why André Breton should say of [Aimé] Césaire ‘Here is a black man who handles the French language as no white man today can.'” (39)