Raphaël Confiant

The prolific French Caribbean writer from Martinique, who writes in both French and Creole, gave this keynote speech November 7, 2001, at the Fourth Annual Meeting of the International Conference of Caribbean Literature in Trois-Ilets, Martinique. Confiant describes his evolution as a writer, his passion for Creole culture and the history of the literary movements of Négritude, Créolité and Antillanité. He also addresses the current preoccupations of contemporary French Caribbean writers, including his own. (See an excerpt from the DVD below.)

DVD: Raphaël Confiant fait un discours
Details: French only; 60 minutes

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Excerpt: Donc il y a déjà une spécificité ici en Martinique, c’est cette spécificité linguistique—le fait qu’à côté du français soit née une langue qui a mis du temps à se développer et qui aujourd’hui est au coeur de tous les débats artistiques. Vous le savez aussi certainement que la majorité de cette population a été privée d’écriture pendant deux siècles et demie, parce que pendant l’esclavage évidemment il était interdit aux maîtres d’apprendre à lire et à écrire à leurs esclaves. Donc quelque part les descendants de ces esclaves sont des voleurs d’écriture. Il y a un écrivain, un lycéen, qui s’appelle Jean Fouchard, qui a une très belle expression. Il dit que ce sont “les marrons du syllabaire, les nègres marrons du syllabaire.”

Pendant l’esclavage le noir n’est pas dans l’écriture, il est dans l’oralité et donc toute une culture orale va se développer. A l’intérieur de cette culture orale se trouvent des formes d’expressions très travaillées que l’on appelle oralité—c’est-à-dire des proverbes, des chansons, des devinettes, des chants de travail, etc. Et tout cela sera en créole. Mais au moment où l’abolition de l’esclavage va arriver en 1848, les descendants d’esclaves tout naturellement vont se tourner vers le français et la langue française parce que c’est un moyen pour eux de devenir des citoyens français.

Endorsements: “Professor Confiant addresses questions that are deeply relevant to post-colonial literature, especially the Cornelian dilemma of writers who hail from the former French colonies. If it is true that language is the vehicle of culture, in which language should one write without appearing to deny the culture of his origins?”
Mamadou Wattara, Teaching Assistant, University of Colorado, Boulder

“Seeing the videos on Maryse Condé and Raphaël Confiant helped to make the French Caribbean come alive for my students. The division of the Condé video into usefully labeled segments meant that I could easily weave them into my lectures. The students enjoyed visualizing this impressive author and greatly benefited from her thoughts on the variety of subjects discussed. For the Confiant video I showed the whole thing in one sitting and it was as if Confiant were there giving us a lecture. It was most useful in tying together the main threads of my course.” Dr. Bonnie Thomas, European Languages & Studies, The University of Western Australia

“The first time I listened to the French version of this video I worried a bit about the interviewer’s French accent, though her sentences were excellent. However, my students told me very clearly that the French was easy to understand and that they derived much from the interview. We read excerpts of the Cahier after seeing it, and their comments made it even clearer that they had benefited a great deal from your work. My colleague’s experience with your documentary on Raphaël Confiant was not dissimilar. Thanks and congratulations!”
Jean-Jacques Poucel, Assistant Professor of French, Yale University


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