The Guadeloupian oblate – a nun who has not taken her vows – Célanire, comes back from afar when she leaves her Lyons convent to go to Grand Bassam in Côte d’Ivoire, to the Africa she claims to want to serve. At birth, she is sold by her prostitute mother, Pisket, to Madeska, a Basse-terre notable, who intends to sacrifice her to « reconcile the invisible » in his quest for power. The sacrifice turns out to be a monumental failure. Her cut throat is healed by a doctor who adopts her before being sent to the penal colony and unfairly condemned for child abuse. Célanire’s arrival in Bingerville in Côte d’Ivoire is simply the prelude for a long search and a powerful desire for revenge. The search for her natural family, the family that abandoned her to the ruthlessness of the sacrificial blade. The search for those who benefited from this sacrifice which left her terribly scarred. And what if Africa was quite simply the vehicle for this quest for reunion and revenge? Isn’t her native Guadeloupe a piece of Africa, lost in the heart of the Caribbean? Célanire’s revenge could (should?) be that of all women. As soon as she arrives in Bingerville, she sets about her task by transforming the Hostel of which she is in charge into a kind of luxury brothel, a « privileged place where the love between the races can be born, feed, multiply… » Seductive, a devil’s mind in a goddess’ body, she enchants all those she encounters: African kings and notables, colonial administrators. And all those who resist her or try to thwart her ambition die a horrible death. Her exceptional destiny leads her to marry Thomas de Brabant, the governor of Grand Bassam, then governor of Basse Terre, thereby giving her the opportunity to return to her roots and to carry out her revenge. All those who contribute in any way to her physical and moral mutilation will pay with their lives. Until Agénor, who made her cut-throat, also dies after a terrible wait. Written to a furious tempo, Célanire cou-coupé gives Maryse Condé an opportunity to tackle several of her favourite themes brilliantly – the relation between the colonized and colonizer, the age-old suffering of women, the criminal use of ancestral beliefs – along with more recent themes, such as lesbianism. A vintage Maryse Condé.
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