cover image The Gospel According to the New World

The Gospel According to the New World

Maryse Condé, trans. from the French by Richard Philcox. World Editions, $18.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64286-118-1

French novelist Condé (Waiting for the Waters to Rise) delivers an ingenious bildungsroman of a messianic figure in contemporary Martinique. After a young woman named Maya gets pregnant, she has a recurring dream in which an angel says her child will “change the face of the world.” It’s not what she wants to hear; in fact, she keeps her pregnancy a secret from her family, giving birth alone and abandoning the baby in a shed on Easter Sunday at Jean-Pierre and Eulalie Ballandra’s Garden of Eden plant nursery. The couple find the boy and name him Pascal, and thus begins his divine journey, in which he later seeks to understand his origin and purpose. As a young man, his “miraculous” success as a fisherman brings the country to the verge of rioting. Other biblical episodes involve a disabled man named Lazare and Pascal’s future betrayer Judas Eluthere, who fronts an anticolonial rebellion. Condé does a lovely job with bringing her protagonist down to earth, covering the sacred and profane elements of Pascal’s life before his death at 33 in a tragic, unexpected manner. Readers will be transfixed. (Mar.)