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L'invention des desirades.

Daniel Maximin. L'invention des desirades. Paris. Presence Africaine. 2000. 111 pages. 90 F. ISBN 2-7087-0700-0.

DANIEL MAXIMIN'S FIRST NOVEL, L'isole soleil (Eng. Lone Sun; see WLT 64:3, p. 513), put him on the literary map in 1981; since then he has solidified his reputation as a novelist from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with Soufrieres in 1987 and L'ile et une nuit in 1995 (see WLT 70:3, p. 748). Now he reveals another aspect of his personality with a volume of poems.

Maximin divides his poetry into three categories, "Wings," "Islands," and "We," plus a final, longer concluding poem. "Wings" may be seen as an evocation of the elan vital of his island. This section is an invitation to creation and a celebration of the creative spirit. The first poem, revolving around the image of Icarus, thanks poets for their gift to mankind; the second calls for song: "Il faut chanter / chanter ensemble." This section also includes a poem that is a garland-collage made from titles and famous phrases drawn from the classics of the poetic pioneers of francophone African and Caribbean literature.

"Islands" deals with the physical and geographic environment behind the poetry, with nature and the elements. La Desirade is one of the satellite islands of Guadeloupe; its name serves to launch a symbolic starburst of ideas presenting the islands of the Caribbean as lands of desire and vitality, newfound freedom, fertility and hope, and creativity. These poems transcend the dark history of the region with agitated visions of fire, water, and air; the earth here is a dynamic, buffeted by volcanoes and hurricanes. The violence of the natural elements has a cleansing force foreshadowing cultural and political blossomings to come.

"We" deals with the people of the geographic region and their power of love and solidarity. Maximin examines the erotics of writing and communication: "It's an act of love to write to someone." One poem, "Lettre suit," is merely a series of variations on this simple phrase. This part of L'invention des desirades is especially Rimbaldian in postulating the political power of Eros and calling for a melding of races and peoples to produce a new social entity with new dynamism, in using alchemy as signifier of future transmutations, and in bathing the psyche in archetypal images such as the sun. The last poem, without category, "Sauf le dernier poeme," confronts the theme of death; it describes the death of the poets who have gone before, but shows how the power of their poetry survives and will eventually help in transforming the sociopolitical world of the region.

Maximin's poetry resembles Verlaine's more than Rimbaud's in that it is above all musical; the sounds of the words are more important than their denotations; themes are suggested and evolve according to harmonies of sound rather than logical patterns. The poems are impressionistic complexes of sound harmonies and favorite words with surrealistic juxtapositions. One can not understand these poems; one can only experience these "floating leaves."

Hal Wylie University of Texas, Austin
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Wylie, Hal
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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