Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?
A Fantastical Tale
The deeply prolific and widely celebrated author of such books as Segu and Tales from the Heart, Maryse Condé returns with an unforgettable new novel, Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? Inspired by a tragedy in the late twentieth century, Condé sets this fiction in the late nineteenth century with her characteristic blend of magical realism and fantasy. Condé lyrically, hauntingly imagines Celanire: a woman who was mutilated at birth and left for dead. Mysterious, seductive, and disarming, she is driven to uncover the truth of her past at any cost.
On one hand, Celanire appears to be a saint; she is a tireless worker who has turned numerous neglected institutions into vibrant schools for motherless children. But she is also a woman apprehended by demons, as death and misfortune seem to follow in her wake. Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? follows both her triumphs and her trials as this survivor becomes a beautiful and powerful woman who travels from Guadeloupe to West Africa to Peru in order to solve the mysteries of her past and avenge the crimes committed against her.
This beautifully rendered story, translated by Richard Philcox from the French edition, is sure to be considered the most dazzling addition to Condé's brilliant body of work.
In 1995, on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an infant was found lying in garbage with her throat cut, a crime celebrated author Cond (Tree of Life; Desirada) takes as inspiration for her 12th novel. Like Rushdie and Grass, Cond sets her imaginatively dark epic against the backdrop of a larger conflict, here the clash between imperialist France and the co-opted African continent. Arriving penniless in the turbulent Ivory Coast in 1901, the enigmatic, bewitching Celanire (always wearing a scarf around her neck) embarks on a mission to discover the truth of her violent past. Spanning nine years, the novel follows Celanire as she travels from Africa to her native Guadeloupe and to Peru, where she will exact her final revenge, calling on demons and devils to destroy those who tried to make her a child sacrifice. Cond 's prose deftly shifts between lushness and fierceness, but the vengeful Celanire can be unsympathetic. There is not enough insight into her quest perpetrators are offered up rather than rooted out, making for a mysterious but sometimes lackluster revenge saga and Celanire herself remains shadowy. While the plot might be a little slack, Cond does an excellent job of weaving together elements of myth, mysticism and history to create an intriguing and often macabre vision of passion and vengeance.