9780743482608

Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? : A Fantastical Tale

by ;
  • ISBN13:

    9780743482608

  • ISBN10:

    0743482603

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-08-17
  • Publisher: Atria

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Summary

The deeply prolific and widely celebrated author of such books as Segu and Tales from the Heart, Maryse Condé returns with an unforgettable new novel, Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? Inspired by a tragedy in the late twentieth century, Condé sets this fiction in the late nineteenth century with her characteristic blend of magical realism and fantasy. Condé lyrically, hauntingly imagines Celanire: a woman who was mutilated at birth and left for dead. Mysterious, seductive, and disarming, she is driven to uncover the truth of her past at any cost.


On one hand, Celanire appears to be a saint; she is a tireless worker who has turned numerous neglected institutions into vibrant schools for motherless children. But she is also a woman apprehended by demons, as death and misfortune seem to follow in her wake. Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? follows both her triumphs and her trials as this survivor becomes a beautiful and powerful woman who travels from Guadeloupe to West Africa to Peru in order to solve the mysteries of her past and avenge the crimes committed against her.


This beautifully rendered story, translated by Richard Philcox from the French edition, is sure to be considered the most dazzling addition to Condé's brilliant body of work.

Excerpts

Ivory Coast1901-1906 Chapter 1 This was not the first time the Reverend Father Huchard, a long-standing member of the African Missionary Society in Lyons, had landed on these shores. He was an old-timer and had already spread the word of God among the natives of Dahomey as well as those in the Lower Congo. So it was of no surprise to him that the land was so flat, the forest beyond so impenetrable, that the rain over his head never let up and the sun up there, way up there, was so hazy. His eye was fixed on one of his flock of six: an oblate who answered to the name of Celanire. Celanire Pinceau. A most unusual name! The priest's gaze, however, did not betray any covetous look. It was simply the fact she stood out from the others. She hardly spoke. She did not seem curious or excited like her traveling companions, who were eager to begin their missionary work. What's more, her color set her apart, that dark skin that clothed her like a garment of deep mourning. Her features were not strictly black -- rather, a hybrid of goodness knows how many races. She did not wear religious garb, since she had not yet taken her vows, but wore a somber gray dress and a scarf around her neck tied with a ribbon from which hung a heavy gold cross. Winter come summer, morning, noon, and night, this tightly knotted scarf never left her and matched the color of her clothes. Where did she come from? From Guadeloupe or Martinique. Well, from one of those colonies that are only French by name, where the natives have been baptized yet still run wild, swear like heathens, beat the drum, and drink strong liquor. She was an orphan raised by the Sisters of Charity in Paris whose desire to do missionary work in Africa had made her join the nuns of Our Lady of the Apostles in Lyons the previous year. Reverend Father Huchard, who had kept his eye on her throughout the voyage, was no wiser now than he had been when the Jean-Bart first sailed out of the Gironde estuary in a great swirl of muddy water. The fact was that whenever he regaled his audience with stories about the natives, and he had seen some in his time, she had a way of staring at him that made him ill at ease and reduced him to silence. But there was nothing serious to report. She wasn't insolent. She wasn't disobedient. Even so, Reverend Father Huchard didn't trust her and believed she was capable of anything.The flotilla of small boats bobbed toward the old freighter, braving the wall of waves, jostled each other on reaching its side, and the passengers began to descend, the women standing in large metal baskets, clasping their skirts around their legs, the men gingerly clinging to the rope ladders. As they gradually boarded the boats, the smell of unwashed body parts wafted up.It was the long rainy season, the one that stretches from April to July. The sun's beacon cast a reluctant glare over the immensity of the ocean's swell. The land remained at a safe distance behind the line of rollers, a land devoid of life and houses dotted among the greenery. It was a grayish, spongy land, in places eaten away by the mangrove swamps, in others wrapped in a shroud of vegetation. The sky was low, smeared by streaks of clouds. The silhouettes of the African porters could be seen fending off the torrential rain as best they could on the wharf while the European officials huddled under black umbrellas as voluminous as church bells.At the time when this story begins (but is it the beginning? Where in fact does it begin? That's anyone's guess!) they had barely finished burying the dead at Grand-Bassam. An epidemic of yellow fever had laid to rest all that remained of the Europeans in the vicinity, resulting in the decision by the governor, Roberdeau d'Entremont, to transfer the capital to a more salubrious spot, a few miles distant, on the plateau of Adjame-Santey. In response to the barrage of objections regardi

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