The Root of It: Deconstructing Creole Identity in Crossing the Mangrove
“I like to repeat that I write neither in French nor in Creole. I write in Maryse Conde,”1 (“Liaison dangereuse,” 2007) is a statement that could not be less accurate for the Guadeloupean writer. Writing in French is especially problematic for post-colonialist Francophone authors; using the language of the colonizer while attempting to dismantle cultural and linguistic hierarchy seems to be an act of futility. To be sure, Conde, the author of Crossing the Mangrove, apparently writes in the French language but she capably deconstructs the notion that a language must be necessarily tied to the culture and history it traditionally represents. Through careful practice of intertextuality (the shaping of one text's meaning through reference or application of a previous text) and narrative experimentation in Crossing the Mangrove, Conde demonstrates that objectivity in every sense is impossible. Using the French language is not an act of capitulation to the colonizer and acceptance of all things “French” in the same way that one person's retelling of an event is not the ultimate truth. In Crossing the Mangrove, Conde presents the strange and dark history of Francis Sancher from multiple perspectives and simultaneously works in aspects of the Western literary canon (specifically, William Faulkner). This emphasis on literary and real-life incoherency is iterated by the symbolic motif of trees and their roots throughout the novel. In analyzing Crossing the Mangrove, it is evident that the amalgamation of intertextuality, shifting narrative perspectives, and the motif of trees and their roots contextualizes the fragmented nature of diasporic identity. Truly, it i...
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...d issues of post-colonialism in Crossing the Mangrove. It is clear that Conde favors multiplicity when it comes to ideas of language, narrative, culture, and identity. The notion that anything can be understood through one, objective lens is destroyed through her practice of intertextuality, her crafting of one character's story through multiple perspectives, and her use of the motif of trees and roots. In the end, everything – the literary canon, Creole identity, narrative – is jumbled, chaotic, and rhizomic; in general, any attempts at decryption require the employment of multiple (aforementioned) methodologies.
Conde, Maryse. ‘Liaison dangereuse,’ Pour une littérature-monde, (eds) M. Le Bris & J. Rouaud, Gallimard. 2007. Paris : 205–16.
Condé, Maryse, and Richard Philcox. Crossing the Mangrove. New York: Anchor /Doubleday, 1995. Print.