A Limited Caribbeanness? The Continental Caribbean as Visions of Hell in Alejo Carpentier's El siglo de las luces and Maryse Cond's La vie sclrate1

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A Limited Caribbeanness? The Continental Caribbean as Visions of Hell in Alejo Carpentier's El siglo de las luces and Maryse Cond's La vie sclrate1 Powered By Docstoc
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          A Limited Caribbeanness?
 The Continental Caribbean as Visions of Hell
 in Alejo Carpentier’s El siglo de las luces and
       Maryse Condé’s La vie scélérate1

      ODILE FERLY


       Alejo Carpentier and Maryse Condé are widely held as proponents of
pan-Caribbeanism, a concept which El siglo de las luces and La vie scélérate were
instrumental in foregrounding. These novels reflect the individual as well as
collective wandering of the Caribbean people through the exploration of the
continuous exchanges within the archipelago: between Cuba, Guadeloupe, and
French Guyana in the time of the French Revolution for Carpentier’s work, and
between Guadeloupe and Panama during the construction of the Canal in Condé.
These authors’ encompassing vision of the region beyond its linguistic
fragmentation is evidenced in the sort of chiasmus observed in the fiction under
discussion: the Cuban text devotes large segments to French insular and mainland
territories, while sections of the Guadeloupean novel take place in a Hispanic
continental country and in Jamaica. Carpentier illustrates how a pan-Caribbean
consciousness inadvertently emerged of the French revolutionaries’ attempts to
spread ideals and measures such as the emancipation of the slaves across European
colonial empires, and in particular to the Americas. Similarly, the construction of
the Panama Canal brought together people from various parts of the world and
especially from all over the Antilles, resulting in the Caribbeanisation and further
creolisation of Panama. In both works, intra- and interregional migrations are seen
as fundamental in the shaping of the Caribbean, binding the various islands on the
cultural, social, economic and political levels. Furthermore, historically Panama
and the Guyanas have been lands of opportunities for Antilleans.
      The negative depiction by these authors, of the continental Caribbean as an
earthly version of Hell in the texts is therefore all the more striking, and it possibly
points to a limit to the two novelists’ all-encompassing inclusiveness that seems to
undermine the idea of a pan-Caribbean unity. As will be shown, this image of the
mainland is in fact not exceptional, nor is it unique to the authors under discussion;
rather, it is representative of a wider Caribbean (or more accurately, Antillean)
imaginary. Unlike nineteenth-century thinkers and activists such as Ramón
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Emeterio Betances
				
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