France’s Le Monde newspaper has been running a series on “traveling books”—novels that travelers must take with them when visiting specific locations as means of learning more about their destination and enhancing their experience. This week’s chosen destination is Martinique, and the book selected as perfect accompaniment to the experience of visiting the island is Patrick Chamoiseau’s 1998 book Elmire des sept bonheurs: confidences d’un vieux travailleur de la distillerie Saint-Etienne (Elmire of the Seven Happinesses: Accounts from an old worker at the Saint-Etienne Distillery, Gallimard), a photo-text prepared in collaboration with Martinican photographer Jean-Luc Laguarique.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Martinique is visiting one of a number of old rum distilleries that still produce Martinique’s excellent rhum agricole. These visits, the paper argues, are “one of the best ways of understanding the Caribbean,” as they represent “monuments to history and beauty.” Elmire des sept bonheurs is Chamoiseau and Laguarique’s homage to the workers of the Saint-Etienne distillery in Gros Morne, Martinique. The photos are quite beautiful, even if you cannot read the French text.
You can access the article and listen to a reading of a portion of the text by Richard Herlin (in French) at http://www.lemonde.fr/livres/article/2009/07/23/en-martinique-avec-elmire-des-sept-bonheurs_1220680_3260.html