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Patrick Chamoiseau: Texaco

The story starts with the arrival of “Christ” (in reality, a planner) to the settlement of Texaco. He is hit by a stone but, fearing police reprisals, the inhabitants revive him and he is taken care of by Marie-Sophie Laborieux, who immediately plunges into a long history of Martinique from the early days up to the present. But this is not standard history. Not only does it tell of the arrival of the Europeans, the importation and exploitation of slaves, their liberation and subsequent decolonisation, it tells of the efforts of a downtrodden people, through the voice of Marie-Sophie Laborieux, first settler of Texaco, to tell of their experience. It does this not through standard narrative techniques but through a wonderful mixture of oral and written traditions, which blend together to tell the story of the people of Martinique and of Marie-Sophie herself. For, though written by a man, this is a story of a woman and women. While Esternome, her father, plays an important part in her history, it is the women and their culture that uphold this people, it is women that create and then defend the illegal settlement of Texaco against the invasion of the police. The people are downtrodden, they suffer but, in Marie-Sophie’s story, they rise above their suffering to create their village.

And so we come back to the present, with Marie-Sophie nursing an injured”Christ” and the inhabitants of the settlement fearing reprisals. When the bulldozers arrive, they fear the worst but it is the electricity company that has come to install electricity. All that struggle over the years has finally paid off.

Publishing history

First published 1992 by Gallimard
First published in English 1997 by Pantheon
Translated by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov