Two Years in the French West Indies
Lafcadio Hearn; edited by introduced by Raphakl Confiant
5 1/4" x 8" • 384 pages • maps and b&w illus.
ISBN 9781566563703 • paperback • $16.00 •
"And day by day the artlessness of this exotic humanity touches you more; - day by day this savage, somnolent, splendid Nature - delighting in furious color - bewitches you more."
In October 1887 the writer and translator Lafcadio Hearn sailed from New York to Martinique, where he fell under the spell of the island and its people. Intending to stay only a few months, he remained there for two years, immersed in Martinique's vibrant culture and tropical beauty. The result was one of the most detailed and poetic accounts of day-to-day life in the Caribbean ever written.
Hearn, who was later to win fame for his ground-breaking books about Japan, viewed French-ruled Martinique as an exotic fusion of European, African and Asian influences, the Creole society par excellence. Describing the island's landscape, its flora and fauna, its colonial architecture and rural villages, he provides an invaluable picture of a Caribbean colony where slavery is a recent memory and race an all-important matter of identity. First published in 1890, Two Years in the French West Indies also offers the most complete evocation of the doomed city of Saint Pierre, "Paris of the Antilles," devastated twelve years later in one of the world's worst volcanic eruptions.
Hearn's greatest achievement, however, is his sympathetic insight into the daily lives of ordinary Martinicans: market women, peasant farmers, plantation workers. Exploring their folk tales, music and Creole language, he portrays a world of sensuality and mystery, in which traditional storytelling conjures up a darker dimension of sorcery, ghosts and zombies.
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