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Keywords

Guadeloupean black woman novelist, Maryse Condé, Guadeloupean, black, woman, Caribbean culture, traditional, modern values, ethnic groups, sexes, gender, Antillean writer, postmodern, multicultural, polymorphous, Condé, identity, post colonial, Traversée de la mangrove, literature, culture, gender, difference, social inequalities, black woman

Abstract

As a Guadeloupean black woman novelist, Maryse Condé highlights the tensions in Caribbean culture between traditional and modern values, among ethnic groups, and between the sexes. She combines a representative view of an Antillean writer's specific concerns with a postmodern view of literature as multicultural, polymorphous intersection. The opening portion of this essay argues that Condé's personal literary trajectory embodies a general process of identity formation in post colonial literature, one that passes from the alienation of the individual, to the affirmation of collective movements and positive models, and finally, to a critical, playful outlook in which identities are continually posited, criticized and complicated. In the last section, a reading of Condé's recent novel, Traversée de la mangrove, analyzes how the author self-consciously plays on the properties of the novel, much in the way French New Novelists have done. But Condé's work also underscores the importance of references to a given culture, a historical moment. Typical of her generation, Condé's relaxes the barriers between the New Novel's self-consciousness and a social referentiality that stresses the interaction between literature and culture. Concurrently, her reading of gender refuses absolute difference, while nevertheless tracing social inequalities that cause a black woman's plight to exceed her brother's.

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