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Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? A Fantastical Tale

Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? by Maryse Conde Atria Books, August 2004 $23., ISBN 0-743-48260-3

This fantastical tale is inspired by a crime committed in 1995 on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where an infant child was found lying atop a heap of rubbish with her throat cut.

Maryse Conde, the celebrated author of novels such as Tree of Life, Segu and Tales From the Heart, uses this tragedy, mixed with brilliant mysticism, and African Caribbean history, values, and customs to tell the story of Celanire, a beautiful African woman trying to understand why, as a baby, she was left to die that way.

Sent to live with nuns, Celanire becomes a missionary in Adjame-Santay, a small town on the Ivory Coast. The story begins its twists and turns when Celanire arrives in Guadeloupe as a teacher for the Home of Half-Castes. Upon her arrival, the school director dies, and Celanire takes over. Death and misfortune appear to follow her.

Set in 1901 and spanning nine years, Conde carries the reader through Celanire's travels from Guadeloupe to West Africa to Peru and back to Guadeloupe with her husband, Thomas de Brabant, the town's European governor, and Ludivine, her stepdaughter.

As the story comes to a close, it is revealed how the infant Celanire was used as a sacrifice, and demonic spirits that entered her lifeless body sought revenge. With these revelations, her life begins to take a different course. Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? is a classic display of art and metaphor. It is by far one of Conde's most dynamic novels.

Joycelyn A. Wilson is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia and a freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Author:Wilson, Joycelyn A.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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