Édouard Glissant’s novels, closely tied to the theories he developed in Poétique de la Relation (Poetics of relation), are rich explorations of a deported and colonized people’s loss of their own history and the ever-evolving social and political effects this sense of groundlessness has caused in Martinique. In Mahagony Glissant identifies both the malaise of and the potential within Martinican society through a powerful collective narrative of geographic identity explored through multiple narrators. These characters’ lives are viewed back and forth over centuries of time and through tales of resistance, linked always by the now-ancient mahogany tree.
Attempting to untangle the collective memory of Martinique, Mathieu, the contemporary narrator, creates a conscious history of these people in that place—a record that unearths the mechanics of misrepresentation to get at the fundamental, enduring truths of that history, perhaps as only the mahogany tree knows it.
About the Author
Édouard Glissant (1928–2011) was a Martinican poet, playwright, critic, essayist, and novelist who is recognized as one of the most important writers and thinkers in the French and Francophone world. Several of his novels and essays have been published in English, including The Fourth Century (Bison Books, 2001), The Overseer’s Cabin (Bison Books, 2011), and Poetics of Relation. Betsy Wing’s previous translations include Glissant’s The Fourth Century, The Overseer’s Cabin, Poetics of Relation, and Black Salt, among the works of many other writers.
"A centuries-old tree in Martinique witnesses generations of resistance, striving and social collapse in this novel by the island’s foremost postcolonial writer."—New York Times
"Glissant (The Overseer's Cabin), canonized in the Caribbean for his poetry, novels, and critical theory, offers a dazzling history of colonialism in Martinique, originally published in 1997 and here translated into English for the first time. . . . Glissant (1928–2011) is as comprehensive as he is unconcerned with the encumbrance of linearity, and has found the perfect form to explore the inescapable and reverberating legacies of colonialism. This is a transcendent work of art."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Mahagony gives a gripping fictional embodiment of Édouard Glissant’s literary and cultural theory. It is the indispensable pivot between his abstract thought, his poetry, and his engagement with the history of the postcolonial world. Betsy Wing is Glissant’s foremost translator; she is our best guide through the mangrove of the Martinique master’s body of work.”—A. James Arnold, professor emeritus of French at the University of Virginia
“Mahagony is a crucial monument to the ever-evolving changes defined byÉdouard Glissant’s Poétique de la Relation. . . . Betsy Wing has rendered the stylistic complexities of Glissant’s writing while preserving the explosive life that emanates from every instant of this important work . . . resulting in an eminently readable text whose poetic power, charm, and subtlety has been faithfully and elegantly preserved. A magnificent accomplishment.”—Alexandre Leupin, Phyllis M. Taylor Professor in French Studies at Louisiana State University