Cover image for Mamzelle dragonfly
Mamzelle dragonfly
Confiant, Raphaël, 1951-
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Marisosé. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.
Physical Description:
169 pages ; 20 cm
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Trapped in the cane fields of Martinique, Adelise, delicate and flighty as a dragonfly, has found a way to keep her hard life separate from her secret soul. But when she is forced to move from her village to Fort-de-France, the island's unruly capital, and her aunt introduces her to the unsavory business of nightlife among the mulatto elite, Adelise must draw on ever more tenuous resources to remain free. Set against the politically charged backdrop of mid-twentieth-century Martinique, the story of this unlikely heroine's struggle unfolds in a language at once precise and enchanting, bringing to life both the inevitable harshness of life on Martinique and its inescapably lush beauty.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the first of his novels to be published in English, Confiant portrays Martinique, his homeland, during the 1950s through the eyes of a young, dreamy heroine, Adelise, the Mamzelle Dragonfly of the title. A country girl working in the sugar cane fields, Adelise earns her nickname by skimming lightly through life, a hovering of the soul that serves her well when she is raped by the field boss. Already adept at disconnecting herself from her body, she accepts her fate with stoicism and then adjusts to down-and-dirty life with her aunt Philomene in the volatile capital city of Fort-en-France. Stunned at first to discover that her beautiful and lively aunt lives in a shantytown and makes her living as a prostitute, the ever-adaptable, somewhat mystical Adelise soon follows suit. As Confiant, a master of lyrical understatement, follows Adelise through her unsentimental education and sets in motion a revolt of the city's poor blacks against the white and mulatto elite, he contrasts Adelise's grace and vibrancy with the harshness of the island's corrupt and polarized society. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in mid-century Martinique, this atmospheric novelÄConfiant's first to be translated into EnglishÄunfolds against a backdrop of political unrest as the islanders debate whether to accept independence from France. Adelise is a pretty, mixed-blood cƒpresse, raised by her mother in the isolated rural countryside. By the age of 14, she is working in the sugarcane fields, where she is repeatedly raped and first learns the survival mechanism of mind/body detachment. She finds solace "conversing" with her belovedÄa tree in her backyard near which her umbilical cord is buried. At 16, she is sent to live with her aunt in the capital city, Fort-de-France. Vivacious Aunt PhilomŠne is a prostitute on Morne Pichevin, one of the capital's many shack-packed mountain plateaus. PhilomŠne hopes to find a rich husband for her niece, but soon Adelise is living the same life as her aunt, gossip-filled afternoons followed by nights on the street. For a while, Adelise is in love with HomŠre, a staid and treelike docksman, but eventually his steadfastness bores her. After continued misfortuneÄAdelise glimpses a coffin when she reads her aunt's fortune; her apathetic neighbors resist community improvementÄthe novel ends on a hopeful note. Despite dynamic details of fiery political island strife and colorful island fabulism, momentum stalls when chapters alternate between past and present, first and third person, and fail to build up to a satisfying climax. This is a less focused version of Patrick Chamoiseau's eloquent and vibrant Texaco, which also told of the fight for autonomy by the shanty dwellers of Martinique. Glossary of Creole terms included. (July) FYI: Martinique resident Confiant won the 1991 November Prize for Eau de Cafe. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

You both refuse to admit life isn¡t a game, you¡re like dragonflies fluttering over waterlilies,Œ Adelise¡s mother tells her, referring to her Aunt Philomene. Soon after, Adelise leaves the sugarcane fields of the Martinique countryside and goes to live in Fort-de-France. There, her aunt introduces Adelise to the unsavory nightlife of the city. Adelise readily gives up her body to any passing man but remains a fiercely independent woman. While she is a well-drawn character, the characters surrounding her are flat caricatures. The story, too, flutters like a dragonfly, touching on the political unrest of the capital, the city¡s cultural background, and its vibrant festivals but never settling on one aspect long enough to give a complete picture. This novel, Confiant¡s first to be published in English, was translated from French after having been translated from the Creole in which it was originally written; what once may have been poetic comes across as choppy and confused. A marginal purchase.¢Yvette Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.