Solibo Magnificent by Patrick Chamoiseau

source – personnel copy -published by Granta books

Translators – Rose-Myriam Rejouis and Val Vinokurov .


Patrick Chamoiseau is a Martinique writer ,writes in french and creole he ,has previously won France’s top literary prize the Prix Goncourt  for his novel Texaco .He is a leading figure in the Creolite movement ,a movement to explain the life of people in the french Caribbean .In france he is considered one of the most innovative writers in the post war period .

The book is about the death of a story-teller of the title Solibo Magnificent dies during a carnival mid story under a tree ,this sets about a story of how he died .As the two police men a chief sergeant Phelemon Bouaffese and a chief inspector Evariste Pilon  round-up the  crowd that’s was stood listening to his tale when he dies mid word ,he seems to choke on a word  .There is almost a fever around the police as they try to get the crowd one by one to tell them what had happened to Solibo .This leads to another death of the women that actually called the police in .The action flows with an oral storytelling style of writing everything has a beat that seems to be quickening as you turn the pages ,you are grasped by the foolish police  and brutal police ,at times it is like an old police series from the uk in  70’s where there goading and threatening the witness  ,but also the mentality that can come over people when a serious crime has been committed or seems to have as you are never sure if it was murder or if Solibo just died .as we hear the story from 13 people who where listening  to Solibo as the time he died we find out what happened .the people interviewed come from all walks of life .

At the end of the we hours,when Solibo Magnificent started giving off the heavy odor of deaths first fumes ,the company shook off its lethargy to figure the sun’s height in the sky :say dear god what time is it up there ? Where Doudou -Menar ? people got up ,stretched ,limped ,rubbing pins and needles from their legs .Some bent over Solibo ,now unrecognizable bloated by death .

The opening of the second chapter .

I found the creole a little hard to follow at times as the translator had noted they’d been kept ,but this is what Chamoiseau writing is all about the tradition of his homeland and keeping it  alive ,also the creole /french clash is played out to comic effect in the book some times .SO wherever possible they had stuck to the creole Grammar and spellings .But it added to the feel of this book that has a strong feel of Martinique and french creole people and also how the more french character interacts with them .The story has a strong folkish  tale feel to the book as at times it drifts from the realism of a crime to the dream world of the storyteller and how that effect the people listening to his story .I said with my recent review of Iron balloons which I read after this I wanted to read more Caribbean literature .That included French Caribbean literature this is my second book translated from french my first was Alphabet of the night by the Haitian writer Jean Euphele Milce  .I will be reading more Chamoiseau he is a gripping writer with a clever use of Language ,I may also try some of the other writers from the Creolite movement he and some fellow writers started in the 80’s .

Richard at solar bridge review this book a while ago .

Have you read this book ?

Have you read any Creole fiction ?

March 2023


%d bloggers like this: