Modern Martinican Fables: Lettre à Joséphine—Fables des Îles

As I was searching for an appropriate image for our anniversary salute to Île en île (see previous post Bon Anniversaire, Île en île!], I ran across captivating illustrations in a charming book entitled Lettre à Joséphine: Fables des Îles (Éditions Alzabane, 2009). Written by Jean-Marc Wollscheid and illustrated by Jiména Tello, Lettre à Josephine: Fables des Îles [Letter to Joséphine: Fables of the Islands] is a collection of contemporary fables with a section that may be best described as a tribute to Joséphine de Beauharnais (yes, Empress Joséphine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife).

Publisher’s description:

Gathered in the book “Lettre à Joséphine” (subtitled “Fables des Iles “) [. . .] these twelve tales from Martinique, reverberate as a melodious music of words à la Jean de La Fontaine. From the story “Serrurier de Terreville,” to “Coq au Pitt,” and passing through the tender and hilarious “Man Francine,” these poems consist of warmth and sweetness, as well as a dose of mischievousness and joy.

Through the magic of his rhymes, Jean-Marc Wollscheid takes us to a world where in all meetings, the most unlikely becomes possible: a frog and Esnambuc the Pirate, a steer who is jealous of a bull, a wine-making monk, and a blue heron who wants to cross the sea on the back of a turtle… The poet also knows how to sing of love through the moving ode that gives us the title of the collection, “Lettre à Joséphine,” in which Alexandre de Beauharnais, Joséphine’s first husband, writes a last letter to his beloved.

Jean-Marc Wollscheid, born in Moselle, France, has lived for many years in Martinique. As Tinusia (Paper Blog) writes, the author does not try to “jouer au martiniquais,” but rather positions himself as a metropolitan Frenchman who has learned a great deal from life in the islands, “And, in turn, brings us these teachings with wisdom and humor.”

Jiména Tello was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and raised in France, where she studied editorial design and lived for 20 years. Returning to Argentina in 1997, she studied at the Escuela de Arte Sótano Blanco, where she now teaches.

For more information, see and

For more on the author, see

For more on the illustrator, see

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