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Maryse Condé: Traversée de la mangrove (Crossing the Mangrove)

Léocadie Timothée, spinster and retired teacher, finds the body of Francis Sancher face down in the mud, on the island of Guadeloupe. Sancher was a newcomer to the community and had excited a fair amount of gossip, as he talked loudly, aggressively and often in a mysterious fashion. No-one is surprised by his death, as he himself had suggested he was going to die soon. Clearly, he brought out a reaction in everybody, not always a positive one. He left two women pregnant and associated with the outcasts. Most of the novel is the different inhabitants of the island community giving their often very different perspectives, from the mailman to the various women in his life. Who is he? What is he? What is doing here? Is he good or bad or somewhere in between? Is he a criminal or a revolutionary or neither? Everyone has their point of view and Condé is certainly not giving hers, letting us make up our own minds. The idea is not new – the film Rashomon may be the best-known example but there are many in literature – but Condé handles it well and does not give the game away by showing the “true” story.

Publishing history

First published by Mercure 1989
First published in English 1995 by Anchor-Doubleday
Translated by Richard Philcox