Maryse Condé’s En attendant la montée des eaux

Ayelevi Novivor (Gens de la Caraïbe) recently reviewed Maryse Condé’s En attendant la montée des eaux (2010) [Waiting for the Waters to Rise]. Novivor begins by highlighting Condé’s long career as a Caribbean writer and the unforgettable characters in her sixteen novels, including Ségou, La vie scélérate, Célanire cou-coupé, and now this one.  Here is the review, (roughly)  translated from the French, with a link to the original below:

With a father from Mali and a mother from Guadeloupe, Babakar Traoré’s childhood unfolds in Mali under the protective wing of Thécla Minerve, whose disturbing blue eyes isolate her from the women around her, who consider her a witch. Nevertheless the young boy feels a boundless love towards this loving and possessive mother, who will soon appear only in his dreams. Misfortune comes knocking on his door and Babakar Traoré is projected off the beaten paths after the death shrouds have covered his parents and grandparents. With a deep feeling of belonging to a land to which he is linked with inextricable bonds, he leaves. 

In this novel, the maternal link, like an invisible thread, mystically ties the child to the one who carried him. In this privileged relationship, he is held by the promise of faithful and exclusive love to a mother turned chimera. So logically, Babakar embraces the obstetrics profession, as though he wished to be a first-hand witness to the miracle of life, to be the craftsman instead of the designer.

Thus, the curtain rises in Guadeloupe where the doctor suffers the death of a young pregnant Haitian refugee. The baby, Anaïs, is saved from the moist flesh of her dead mother. This fragile being turns Babakar’s world around to the extent that he decides to take the risk of parenthood and adopt her. For love of Anaïs, Babakar searches through cities and rural Haiti in a quest for answers about the true identity of her mother Reinette, assisted by his companions in misfortune Morva, the Haitian who could have been Anaïs’ legitimate father-in-law, and Fouad, the Palestinian posing as a Lebanese, whose family was decimated in the massacres of Sabra and Chatila. 

The reader follows the trajectories of these battered destinies often rooted in sprawling misery, the lot of the less fortunate. The Ivory Coast, the fictional Ébernuea, Palestine, Lebanon, Haiti; everywhere, poverty with vaguely similar accents, laced with wars, guerrillas, coups, rapes, abuses, sedition. The dizzying journey leads the protagonist into the heart of Haitian society, into the dark side of international organizations, devotion, friendship, violence, dictatorship, furious climate changes, and, to top it all off, floods. Before the soil dries, another storm, more devastating than the previous one, arrives. And while the waters rise: life, death, the unfathomable, dreams, apparitions, regrets, memories, betrayal, memory, existence, the earthquake . . . and the land. 

A novel about the need to make one’s destiny intelligible, even if one is stateless, an immigrant, exiled, or rejected.

For original review (in French),

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