Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

jeudi 24 septembre 2009

Toni MORRISON , a Mercy, 2009

This is a magnificent and sorrowful story told in the manner of an epic of the settling of America , told as in a dream by many voices which call on each other ,call on the reader which means really calling on to the Gods , as in Homer.This is a truly inspired writer who speaks like a prophet of the American past,of the incredible odyssey of these early settllers , European adventurers or ex convicts, indentured workers , poor women sold as wifes, homeless prostitutes ,orphans …all kinds of miserable and heroic folks packed on these boats crossing the Atlantic, who wanted to survive and make a new life . And naturally the most miserable of all, the imported African slaves.To all these unknown and forgotten ancestors Morrison pays homage in a beautiful elegy because her book reads as a poem and evokes so much suffering and death.

We are in 1690, an African woman and her small daughter, Florens, are the basis of the story as in " Beloved" . They are slaves in a plantation owned by a hideous Portuguese planter in Maryland who needs to sell one of them to erase a debt. The reluctant buyer is an honest dutch merchant who takes the little girl at the urging of the desperate mother who appears to favor her baby boy ,but really tries to save her daughter, by putting her for choice. . She guesses instinctively that a nice master would be better than a mean one for her little girl . This founding scene is a heart break ,unforgettable and will remain indelebile in the hearts of both mother and daughter.

Yes, girls and women endured so much more suffering and humiliation than male slaves that Morrison chooses to describe the terrible story of the 4 women who work on the the farm of Jacob Vaard in Virginia and disregard males' lives really ; three negro girls, orphaned or abandoned, and a white wife called Mistress , who labor together in a communion of females . The master, a farmer and trader rules fairly and this could be a small island of contentment if tragedy did not strike in the form of infants deaths( which were common in the colonies ). All four of the masters children die one after the other and everything collapses after the master himself dies of smallpox. The small community is broken ,the surviving mistress goes crazy with religious duties and all these working women plus one infant born recently ,will be either sold or will try to flee.. a desolate ending except for one thing . Florens, the saved daughter of the forgotten slave mother , is now teaching herself how to read and probably will understand her mother's gesture one day : a Mercy . We know that Toni Morrison agonized over this title, which in the end is splendidly moving because it offers such a poignant echo of the impossible choice to be made in moments of absolute destitution and misery . The United States like all countries was founded indeed on so much sacrifice and suffering that one of its greatest living writers is singing and recreating its very creation in an epic vision ; she writes such visual scenes of natural beauty that we almost forget that all human births takes place in blood .This novel can be seen as a historical action of grace with the voices of ghosts who did not write or bear testimony themselves but needed a poet to make them live again , haunting our memory.

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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.