Myths of a New World in Édouard Glissant's novels La Lézarde and Le Quatrième siècle
(Post-)Modern human experience as represented in contemporary literature seems to be, in many respects, a traumatizing affair, marked by many losses linked to identity. These include: foundation narratives, ancestral religion, bonds of kinship and lineage, and a progressive loss of the sense of anchorage and belonging. Seen from the Caribbean and from the vision of its writers, these are some of the characteristics of a complex “New World” whose multiple-layered identities and lived experiences official historical narratives fail to render or even deliberately silence and erase. This is where, from a literary perspective, “words with power”, such as Édouard Glissant's, are called into the work-play (Frye 1990) of resistance and opposition, reconstructing history in “another way” (Benitéz-Rojo 1996), articulating meaningful cross-road connections between history, memory, identity, myth and writing. This exploration of Glissant's novels La Lézarde (Seuil, 1958; Prix Renaudot, 1958) and Le Quatrième siècle (Seuil, 1964; Prix Veillon, 1964) serves as a point of entry into a preliminary attempt at reconsidering the concept of “New World” identity from a slightly different angle, first in the Americas, then beyond. In fact, no pretext is needed to link the creative thinking of writers like Glissant, Alejo Carpentier or Wilson Harris, for example, to Caribbean perspectives on the “New World” of the other Americas, and beyond. This essay ultimately raises questions and suggests perspectives of scholarly approaches to broader positive conceptualizations of the New World, out of the Caribbean.
Keywords: Édouard Glissant, globalization, myth/symbolism, New World identity.
> Tydskriff vir Letterkunde Vol. 44 (2) 2007: pp. 163-187