Balai de Sorcière: Lawrence Scott’s Witchbroom in French Translation

Balai de Sorcière

Translated into French y Christine Pagnouille

Lawrence Scott’s Witchbroom, first published in 1992 and recently reprinted by Papillote Press, has been published in a French translation by Mémoire d’Encrier.

Witchbroom is a visionary history of a Caribbean Spanish/French Creole family and an island over four centuries – to 20th-century independence. With an innovative tone and content, its carnival tales of crime and passion are told by the narrator Lavren, who is both male and female.
First published in 1992, Witchbroom became a Caribbean classic. The following year it became a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, broadcast over eight nights and read by the author. It was shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book.

A pioneering work, it heralded a new generation of modernist Caribbean writers who, like Scott, broke away from a predominantly realist literary tradition; Witchbroom identifies more with magic realism. A richly entertaining and many layered read, its hermaphrodite narrator brings a contemporary flavour to the novel. The title Witchbroom refers to a fungus that attacks cocoa trees, and is also used as a metaphor for the decline of the island’s plantocracy.

Rare and magical. The first of its kind… wonderful evocative language; complete emotional range; a loving, touching insight into human and family relationships.

– Sam Selvon

An impressively written work by a very gifted writer…subtle but compelling…strange and intriguing fiction with its layers of incurable pathos.

– Wilson Harris (Wasafiri)

What a powerful writer unfashionably leisured and completely self-confident. A Caribbean One Hundred Years of Solitude.

– Fay Weldon

An engrossing and compulsive work of fiction…with a sensuous prose style…a vast gallery of characters – vivid, grotesque, miraculous, surprising, pathetic.’

– Ken Ramchand

This novel has more of the tone and texture and taste of the Caribbean milieu than any novel I can think of. This is a wonderful novel: rich, sensuous, quirky, energetic, vividly memorable.

– Stewart Brown

One of the things that the re-publishing of this novel does is return us to tales we have read before, to old problems, that if we look at them now we might see something new. It comes at a good time. I believe that is still in the struggle for the Caribbean the idea that there is a we bound together by residence – we live here – and there is another we, the colonists or colonial other who live abroad and who have exploited our resources whether as absentee landlords or multi-nationals in oil etc and that we are engaged in a struggle with each other.
The truth is even more challenging. The struggle is with ourselves with each other, and what this work can do what art can do is to mediate between worlds. But in order to do so we must know these worlds. And that is why our friendships are not only to provide us with an agreeing chorus but help to equip us, and deepen our responsibility to shape our art.
There is one thing more… I was talking to some students at UTT about Josephine and the bed and what one student interpreted Josephine’s wanting the bed to mean was that she wanted to take madam’s place in the household.
This is another, a useful perspective.
So let me congratulate Lawrence and all connected with the re-publishing of this book. And wish all of you every success with it.

– extract from Earl Lovelace’s comments on Witchbroom at the launch of the new edition of the novel in Trinidad

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