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White Spirit (European Women Writers) Paperback – 1 Apr 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; 1 edition (1 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803264410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803264410
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 14 x 20.3 cm

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Review

"A thoroughly odd and original book."--Trish Crapo, "Women's Review of Books"--Trish Crapo"Women's Review of Books" (05/22/2006)

About the Author

Paule Constant is the author of several novels, including "Trading Secrets," winner of the Prix Goncourt, and "The Governor's Daughter," both published by the University of Nebraska Press. Betsy Wing has translated Constant's previous novels published by the University of Nebraska Press, as well as Edouard Glissant's "The Fourth Century" (Nebraska 2001) and Helene Cixous's "The Book of Promethea" (Nebraska 1991).

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Amazon.com: 1 review
White Fantasy 13 Nov. 2006
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Betsy Wing translates well, though the book hardly ever sounds natural: perhaps that stiffness and mock-eloquence comes from the original? "Happy and reassured, the well-aimed messenger gave free rein to a joy that was just as spontaneous as his recent sorrow; his fifteen years did the rest: in his joy he raped a girl who had been granted the name of Mary. A crisis!" The balanced sentences, the mock heroics of the exclamation mark, the unusually ornate adjective (such as "well-aimed," hardly a word in English, is it?) all contribute to the cardboardy feel of WHITE SPIRIT. "Emmanuel" is said to mean "well-aimed" by the clergyman, Father Jean, and perhaps this is a satire on the clergy's support of colonial initiatives and ideology.

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't the idea of the "White Spirit," a powder with chemical effects so strong that they bleach a black native's skin white, and in consequence becomes in demand like tulips in Holland, isn't this idea on the face of it something that only a white person would dream up? The understory is that naturally everyone wants to be white and no one given a choice would want to be black. I suppose there's a long tradition in France of the white avant-garde setting its surrealist narratives in an enslaved Africa, from Raymond Roussel and Picasso on down, but by 1990 this conceit must have seemed pretty creaky, no? Truman Capote and Harold Arlen did the same thing as a musical back in the 1950s with HOUSE OF FLOWERS. WHITE SPIRIT's story itself is well told, with lots of room for Constant's own patented metaphors and similes (a true poet, everything is something else for La Constant--"Lola looked at the whores as enviously as a neglected child watching spoiled children who are so dreadfully used to happiness.") which I can never get enough of. English, I think, is implicated in Constant's search for meaning: even the title WHITE SPIRIT used to be WHITE SPIRIT in the original, as though it were chic to sport an English (or American) name.
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