cover image Creole Folktales -Op/69

Creole Folktales -Op/69

Patrick Chamoiseau. New Press, $16.95 (113pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-185-7

The 1992 winner of France's Goncourt Prize brilliantly retells 12 tales from his home island of Martinique in his first book to be published in the U.S. Included are delightfully coarse and lively folktales incorporating European and African motifs and stories apparently handed down from the time of slavery. In one, ``Ti-Jean Horizon,'' the eponymous hero repeatedly outwits his Beke (white) master, as does Conquering John in African American tales. Others warn of the danger of foolish behavior, as in ``Nanie-Rosette the Belly-Slave,'' of whom the storyteller remarks ``Quite a pretty name for a disaster with an abyss for a stomach, a riverbed for a throat... In short, Nanie-Rosette loved to eat, oh yes.'' Her gluttony leads to her downfall at the hands of a devil. The lyric language here is often bawdy, even in a uniquely Martinique variant of the Cinderella tale. Witty asides enrich these fables and allegories, though their protagonists are poor, enslaved people striving to survive in a politically hostile world. The stories have a contemporary edge that transcends their colonial roots. (Feb.)