Understanding Martinique

We have read three very different works, Danticat’s Krik! Krak!, Jacquise Romain Masters of the Dew, and Zobel’s Notebook of a Return to a Native Land, by two important authors from Martinique, Aimé Césaire and Joseph Zobel and have viewed Euzhan Palcy’s film based on Zobel’s novel. Notebook of a Return to a Native Land, first published in 1939 in a poetry review, is a long surrealistic poem in blank verse which traces Césaire’s return to Martinique after studying in Paris and his impressions of and reactions to his homeland and its history. Discourse on Colonialism, first published in 1950, is a philosophical examination of the effects of colonialism on Martinique (and the rest of the world) with strong Communist overtones. Joseph Zobel’s novel, Black Shack Alley, first published in 1974, tells the tale (perhaps autobiographical) of a young boy as he struggles to grow up in a world still under the influences of colonialism but attempting to create its own identity. Finally, Euzan Palcy’s 1983 film version of Zobel’s work adds to the dynamic by bringing his characters to life in a visually compelling format, fairly true to the novel but with her own interpretation.

If literature “sweeps away the veils, nothing more, nothing less” (Dany Laferrière) we must ask ourselves the following questions:

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What are the commonalities which stand out in these three very different literary works about the life and the inhabitants of Martinique?
What does each author/director want the reader/viewer to understand about Martinique?
What are the veils (or pre-conceived notions) of the Caribbean identity which these four works sweep away?
How do these three works relate to contemporary world problems of identity ,both personal and social?

In this paper, you are to address each of these four questions in order to demonstrate your understanding and appreciation of these works. Once again, you MUST use specific references from each of the readings including Palcy’s film to support your ideas.

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