Rewriting The Return to Africa: Voices of Francophone Caribbean Women Writers examines the ways Guadeloupean women writers Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart and Myriam Warner-Vieyra demystify the theme of the return to Africa as opposed to the masculinist version by Négritude male writers from the 1930s to 1960s. Négritude, a cultural and literary movement, drew much of its strength from the idea of a mythical or cultural reconnection with the African past allegorized as a mother figure. In contrast these women writers, of the post-colonial era who are to large extent heirs of Négritude, differ sharply from their male counterparts in their representation of Africa. In their novels, the continent is not represented as a propitious mother figure but a disappointing father figure. This study argues that these women writers' subversion of the metaphorical figure of Africa and its transformation is tied to their gender. The women novelists are indeed critical of a female allegorization of the land that is reminiscent of a colonial or nationalist project and a simplistic representation of motherhood that does not reflect the complexities of the Diaspora's relation to origins and identity. Unlike the primary male writers of the Négritude movement, they carefully "gendered" the notion of return by choosing female protagonists who made their way back to the Motherland in search of identity. I argue that writing is a more suitable space for the female subject seeking identity because it allows her to have a voice and become subject rather than object as that was the case with the Négritude writers. The women writers' shattering of the image of Mother Africa and subsequently that of Father Africa highlights the complex relationship between Africa and the Diaspora from a female point of view. It shifts the identity quest of the characters towards the Caribbean, which emerges as the real problematic mother: a multi-faceted, fragmented figure that reflects the constitutive clash that occurred in the archipela.
Anne M. François —
Anne M. François is associate professor of French at Eastern University.
François, Anne M. Rewriting the return to Africa: voices of francophone Caribbean women writers. Lexington Books, 2011. 111p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780739148266; ISBN 9780739148280 e-book. Reviewed in 2012apr CHOICE.
François's engaging study of three Francophone Caribbean women writers--Guadeloupeans Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and Myriam Warner-Vieyra--provides an interesting take on an old theme (taken up principally by male Caribbean writers): the allegorization of Africa as the nurturing mother. For these women, Africa assumes an opposite, though unfulfilling, patriarchal figure. In looking at two of the giants of Francophone Caribbean writing, Condé and Schwartz-Bart, and the less-known Warner-Vieyra, François (Eastern Univ.) differentiates the Antillean male/female sentiment of a mythical return to Africa. Reminiscent of Chantal Kalisa's Violence in Francophone African and Caribbean Women's Literature (CH, Jul'10, 47-6129), which took a feminist perspective in opposition to the patriarchal discourse of male writers in the Caribbean diaspora, the present title provides fresh feminist interpretations of the nostalgic yearnings for a welcoming Africa. In considering each author's search for Caribbean self-identity, François extends beyond the limitations imposed by the negritude and Creole of pre- and post-independence writing; she envisions writings by the women as a willful act of cultural identity rooted in the Caribbean rather than in a search of a mythical nurturing Africa. For these women, writing is a migratory journey that reconnects yearnings for identity to renewed Caribbean feminist understanding of self.
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. -- A. J. Guillaume Jr., Indiana University South Bend