Related VG Pages
Biography / Criticism
Condè on the meaning of her works: "Je ne suis pas un ècrivain ý message. J'ècris d'abord pour moi, pour m'aider ý comprendre et supporter la vie. " Translation: I am not a messenger writer. I write for me, to help me comprehend and support the life.
Maryse Condè (Boucolon) was born in Pointe-ý-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on February 11, 1937. Condè was educated in Paris at Lycèe Fènèleon and at the Sorbonne where she took her doctorate in Comparative Literature. She was an instructor at école Normale Supèrieure, in Conakry, Guinea. She also worked at Ghana Institute of Language in Accra and Lycèe Charles de Gaulle in Saint Louise, Senegal, and lived in the Ivory Coast and taught for a year in Bingerville.
More recently, Condè moved to London, where she worked as a program producer for the BBC and later became the course director at the Sorbonne. She is the first Francophone Caribbean novelist who has connected the English Caribbean with the colonial United States. She has written several plays performed in Paris and the West Indies, while continuing her academic career at UC Berkeley, the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland, and Harvard before coming to Columbia in 1995.
Her first novel, Hèrèmakhonon, appeared in 1976. Other Condè novels that have gained attention include Segou, (La vie scelerate) Tree of Life, and I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (Moi, Tituba, sorciere noire de Salem). Many of Condè's novels have been translated into English, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese.
The Guadeloupan novelist, playwright, critic and professor creates characters in family situations, drawn from her experiences in Paris, West Africa, and her native Guadeloupe. Her novels focus on personal human involvements in holy wars, national rivalries and migrations of peoples. Her novels emphasize the effects of the transition of ordinary characters by placing the protagonists in situations where they must choose between the existing social order and cultural changes prompted by the Western influence. Condè uses her characters as a tool for expressing herself by giving them their own voice in order to make her views on specific issues known. Her characters are often rejected by society because they are drifters, non-conformists, and rebels. She is interested in the cultural encounters, conflicts, and the changes which bring about a new awareness in the main characters centered in her works.
"In Condè's novels, essays, and interviews, one can retrace the evolution of her ideas on the question of identity both at the collective and personal level" (Shelton, 1993). In Condè's first novel, Hèrèmakhonon (1976), she relates the journey of Veronica, an Antillean student searching for her roots in a newly liberated West African country. During her stay in the newly liberated country, Veronica becomes involved with a powerful government official and a young school director who opposes the struggle for liberty in Africa. As she leaves the country, she realizes that her expectations of what Africa would be differed from the reality of Africa. The setting was inspired by what Condè experienced in Guinea in 1962. In her realization, Condè saw "just how badly prepared [she] was to encounter Africa; [she] had a very romantic vision, and [she] just wasn't prepared, either politically or socially. " At this point of her life in Guinea began a deep political awareness from her active involvement with Marxist militants and her experience of being intertwined with various cultures.
In her next two novels, Segou: Les muraills de terre (1984), and Segou II: La terre en mietts (1986), Condè recreates events in the West African kingdom of Segou (now Mali) between 1797 and 1860. This work documents the experiences and exploitations of a royal family whose lives were destroyed by the European-colonization, the slave trade, and the introduction of Islam and Christianity. "Her onslaught upon the idea that race, rather than poverty and weakness, is the base upon which the exploitation of Africans and exiled Africans was brought into being. " (Bruner, 1977)
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1986) is an historical novel, rooted in American history. According to Condè, "I gave Tituba all my preoccupations, freedom, failure of freedom, revolution and the struggles and efforts to arrive at something in spite of it all. " Through the novel's first-person narrative, Condè elaborates on history to educate the reader about both Puritans' persecution of women and the lives of slaves in Barbados and America.
As a young girl, Tituba found that she could gain knowledge using herbal remedies while calling on her personal spirits for guidance. Moi, Tituba Sorciere (I, Tituba the Witch) re-creates the story of a black slave woman from Barbados who was among the women tried for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, during the late 1600s. "Condè's imaginative subversion of historical records forms a critique of contemporary American society and its ingrained racism and sexism. " (Kirkus Associations, LP, 1992).
In 1985, Condè obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in the United States. She received the prestigious French award Le Grand Prix Literature de la Femme in 1986 for I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. In addition, she was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1987-88 as well as a Puterbaugh Fellow in 1993. She teaches in the French and Romance Philology Department of Columbia University in New York, where she also chairs the new Center for French and Francophone studies.
Works by the Author
- The Tropical Breeze Hotel (1994)
- In the Time of Revolution (1989)
- Pension les Alizes (1988)
- Mort d'Olwemi D'Ajumako (Death of a King) (1973)
- Dieu nous l'a donnè (God Given) (1972)
- Histoire de la Femme Cannibale: Roman (2003)
- Célanire Cou-Coupé : Roman Fantastique (2000)
- Land of many colors; and Nanna-ya (1999)
- Windward Heights (1999)
- Dèsirade (1998)
- La colonie du nouveau monde (The Colony of the New World) (1993)
- Les derniers rois mages (1992)
- Traversee de la mangrove (1990), also published as Crossing the Mangrove (1995)
- La Vie Scelerate (1987), also published as Tree of Life (1992)
- Moi, Tituba, sorciere noire de Salem (1986), also published as I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1992)
- Segou II: La terre en miettes (1985), also published as The Children of Segu (1989)
- Segou: Les murailles de terre (1984), also published as Segou (1987)
- Une Saison: Rihata (1981), also published as A Season in Rihata (1988)
- Hèrèmakhonon (1976)
- La Parole des femmes (1979)
- La Civilisation du Bossale (1978)
- Le profil d'une oeuvre (1978)
Short Stories and Children's Literature
- Tales from the Heart: True Tales from My Childhood (2001), or Le cœur à rire et à pleurer : contes vrais de mon enfance (1999)
- The Children of Nya (1989)
- Victor et les barricades (1989)
- Haiti Cherie (1987)
- Pays Mele (1985)
- Tim tim? Bois sec! Bloemlezing uit de Franstalige caribsche Literateur (1980)
- La Poesie antillaise (1977)
- Le Roman antillaise (1977)
- Anthologie de la literature africaine d'expression franáaise (1966)
Works about the Author
- Arnold, Albert James. "The novelist as critic. " World Literature Today 67 (1993): 711-16.
- Britton, Celia. “Breaking the Rules: Irrelevance/Irreverence in Maryse Condé's Traversée de la mangrove.” French Cultural Studies 15.1 (2004 Feb): 35-47.
- Brown, Ann G. and Maryanne E. Goozé. International Women's Writing: New Landscapes of Identity. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995.
- Bruner, David and Charlotte Bruner. "Buchi Emecheta and Maryse Condè: contemporary writing from Africa and Caribbean. " World Literature Today 59 (1985): 9-13.
- Bruner, David K. "Maryse Condè: Creative Writer in a Political World. " L'Esprit Createur 17.2 (1977).
- Bruner, David K. "The life of an African family exploited. " [Review of the book Segou: La terre en Miette]. World Literature Today 60.3 (1986).
- Condé, Maryse and Francoise Pfaff. Entretiens avec Maryse Condé: suivis d'une bibliographie complete. Paris: Editions Karthala, 1993. (French)
- Cottenet-Hage, Madeleine and Lydie Moudileno. Maryse Condé: une nomade inconvenante: mélanges offerts à Maryse Condé. Petit-Bourg: Ibis rouge, 2002. (French)
- Fendler, Ute. Interkulturalität in der frankophonen Literatur der Karibik: der europäisch-afrikanisch-amerikanische Intertext im Romanwerk von Maryse Condé. Frankfurt: IKO, 1994. (German)
- Jonassaint, Jean. For a Caribbean Intertext: On Some Readings of Maryse Condé's Crossing the Mangrove. French Civilization and Its Discontents: Nationalism, Colonialism, Race. Ed. Tyler Stovall, Tyler and Georges Van den Abbeele. Lexington, Lanham, MD. 2003. 147-71.
- Lionnet, Francoise. “Narrating the Americas: Transcolonial Métissage and Maryse Condé's La Migration des coeurs.” Women in French Studies (2003): 46-64.
- Mudimbe-Boyi, Elisabeth. "Giving a voice to Tituba: the death of the author?" World Literature Today 67 (1993): 751-6.
- Ouédraogo, Jean. Maryse Condé et Ahmadou Kourouma: Griots de l'indicible. New York: Peter Lang 2004.
- Rae, Annabelle M. (May 1987) “Review of the book Pays Mele” French Review 60.6 (1987): 905-6.
- Scarboro, Ann Armstrong. “Review of the book Womb of Shadow” The American Book Review 9.6 (1998): 8.
- Shelton, Marie-Denise. "Condè: the politics of gender and identity. " World Literature Today 67 (1993): 717-22.
- Silenieks, Juris. “Review of the book Segou: Les murailles de terre.” World Literature Today 59.2 (1985): 309-10.
- Smith, Arlette M. "Maryse Condè's Hèrèmekhono: a triangular structure of alienation. " CLA Journal 32 (1988): 45-54.
Works in Languages other than English
- Histoire de la femme cannibale: roman. Paris: Mercure de France, 2003.
- La belle Créole: roman. Paris: Mercure de France, 2001.
- Célanire cou-coupé: roman fantastique. Paris: R. Laffont, 2000.
- Le coeur à rire et à pleurer: contes vrais de mon enfance. Paris: R. Laffont, 1999.
- Desirada: roman. Paris: R. Laffont, 1997.
- Pays mé: nouvelles. Paris: R. Laffont, 1997.
- En attendant le bonheur: Heremakhonon: roman. Paris: R. Laffont, 1997.
- La migration des coeurs: roman. Paris: R. Laffont, 1995.
- La colonie du nouveau monde: roman. Paris: R. Laffont, 1993.
- Les derniers rois mages: roman. Paris: Mercure de France, 1992.
- Traversée de la mangrove. Paris: Mercure de France, 1992.
- Hugo le terrible. Saint Maur: Sépia, 1991.
- Pension les Alizés: pièce en cinq tableaux. Paris: Mercure de France, 1988.
- Moi, Tituba sorcière: noire de Salem. Paris: Mercure de France, 1988 (1986).
- La vie scélérate: roman. Paris: Seghers, 1987.
- Pays mé; suivi de, Nanna-ya. Paris: Hatier, 1985.
- Ségou: roman. Paris: R. Laffont, 1984-85.
- Une saison a Rihata: roman. Paris: R. Laffont, 1981.
- La parole des femmes: essai sur des romancières des Antilles de langue francaise. Paris: L'Harmattan, 1979.
- La civilisation du bossale: réflexions sur la littérature orale de la Guadeloupe et de la Martinique. Paris: Éditions L'Harmattan, 1978. Spanish
- Con ganas de reir y de llorar: cuentos reales de mi infancia. Trans. Linda Rivera Rivera. Recinto de Río Piedras: University of Puerto Rico, Programa Graduado en traducción, 2002.
- Barlovento. Trans. Mireia Porta i Arnau. Barcelona: Editorial Casiopea, 2001.
- La Bruja de Salem. Trans. Concha Serra Ramoneda. Barcelona: Ediciones B, 1988.
This page was researched and submitted by Femi Bryant, Jovita Person, Salima Small, Vicky Urbanovich, Alithea Wilson, and Justin Brown on 5/6/00, and was edited and updated by Lauren Curtright on 10/23/04