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Eau de café by Raphaël Confiant
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Eau de café

by Raphaël Confiant

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Confiant is one of the proponents of what he calls 'creolitude', along with Patrick Chamoiseau and Aime Cesaire. Creolitude is a sort of reaction to the negritude movement. Whereas negritude emphasises the African origins of Afro-Caribbean and African-Americans, Creolitude is more interested in the often bewildering racial, social and sexual politics of the Caribbean, and how that milieu gave rise to modern Caribbean identity.

'Eau de Cafe' is a woman, so-called because her skin is the colour of weak coffee. She lives in a village that is on the coast, but has turned its back on the sea, seeing it as dangerous and malevolent. The village is populated by people of a variety of races; white, black, mulatto, middle-eastern. The book examines the lives of some of the main characters, principally through their loves, their conflicts and their sexual interactions. The subtle politics of the region inveigles every relationship, and Confiant uses his often slightly aimless narrative to examine Martinican identity. At the heart of the story is Eau de Cafe herself, and her adoptive children, one of whom, Atilia, was drowned, the other of whom has returned from exile to discover the truth behind Atilia's death, and uncover the village's secret history.

Confiant's style was very reminiscent of Chamoiseau's, with a jaunty, avuncular tone and a light touch of magical realism. The lives of the characters are blighted by poverty, sexual violence and heartache, so this is no light read, but the generally positive tone was engaging and allowed Confiant to play with some very dark issues. This was a very enjoyable book, but one that packed a punch.
  GlebtheDancer | Jul 28, 2013 |
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