Patrick Chamoiseau was born in Fort-de France on the Antillean island of Martinique in 1953. After his studies in law in Paris and his master’s degree in social economics he worked as an educator in rehabilitation projects for children in detention, first in France, later in Martinique. Inspired by his professional activities and his readings of Creole literature, Chamoiseau began to focus on the ethnological, historical, and linguistic phenomena of the Caribbean, which have become subjects and motifs of his literary work ever since.
Chamoiseau’s idea of a writer, as manifest in the diversity of his oeuvre, is based on the concept of a Creole identity, and, thus, very different from the »black identity« that forms the nucleus of Aimé Césaire’s Négritude movement. In collaboration with Raphaël Confiant and Jean Bernabé, Chamoiseau established in 1989 the theoretical foundations of »Creolity« in the manifesto »Eloge de la créolité« (1989; Eng. »In Praise of Creolness«, 1989). Chamoiseau started his career as a writer in the 1970s with a cartoon. In 1982 he wrote the play »Manman Dlo contre la fée Carabosse« (tr: Mama Dlo against the Evil Fairy), which compares Caribbean fairy tales with narrations by Charles Perrault, and discusses contemporary cultural conflicts on the Antilles. In his first novel, »Chronique des sept misères« (1986; Eng. »Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows«, 1999) the author introduces an innovative style by blending Creole colloquial and narrative traditions with the French language, so that French-speaking readers can understand his texts, too. His successful third novel, »Texaco« (1992; Eng. »Texaco«, 1997) gained international reward. »Texaco« is a fictive family story covering three generations, told against the backdrop of the real history of the Antilles from slavery until the end of the French colonial era. In his autobiographical trilogy »Antan d’enfance« (1990; Eng. »Childhood«, 1999), »Chemin d’école« (1994; »Schooldays «, 1997), and »A bout d’enfance« (2005; tr: At the End of Childhood), Chamoiseau describes his young life as a »petit négrillon«, mixed with reflections and judgments from the writer’s point of view. His latest work of prose, »Les neuf consciences du Malfini« (2009; tr: The Nine Forms of Conscience of the Malfini), is an animal fable, and an entertaining and philosophical read about a bird of prey that begins to appreciate his own being and the beauty of the world through an encounter with the hummingbird. In its lyrical style the story stresses the warning Chamoiseau and Edouard Glissant once gave: »The absence of beauty is the sign of a threat to life itself, a call to resistance«.
Patrick Chamoiseau has received numerous literary awards, including the Prix Kléber Haedens, Prix Goncourt, Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe and the Special Prize of the Jury RFO. The author lives in Fort-de-France.
© internationales literaturfestival berlin