Review: Emigration and Caribbean Literature. Malachi McIntosh. 2015. Palgrave Macmillan.
This project makes a significant contribution to the diasporic Caribbean community and the reinvention of various disciplines well beyond the Caribbean through the work of feminist scholars. It fits well within the other new Caribbean monographs in this series such as Koichi Hagimoto’s Between Empires: Marti, Rizal and the Intercolonial Alliance (2013). Hagimoto’s first book studies the colonial experiences of the Philippines towards a deeper understanding of the rootlessness of Orientalism.
The new approach Malachi McIntosh takes in this book in comparison to the several books about emigrant authors and organic intellectuals that have been published over the last decade is by turning to the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean. Emigration in the genesis of world literature usually is perhaps most widely read in China, in the military strategy philosophy of 孫子兵法, which was first translated into the French language in 1772 by Jean Amiot (錢德明). Amiot emigrated to China in 1750 where he became the official translator of Western languages for the Qianlong Emperor. This is very important because McIntosh re-engages with the generation of researchers from the Caribbean who travelled to Europe between and after the two world wars. Thus it is not the ancient divination text I Ching (易經) that was transformed over the Warring States period that is of importance to McIntosh’s world war-era argument but 孫子兵法.
Missing inscribed bamboo slips of military army manoeuvres dated back to the 2nd century BCE aside, McIntosh does succeed in analysing the French reading public very well within the French field for French Caribbean writing. His intellectual grasp of the histories of both the Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean literature during French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique’s war era is pioneering. Migration as an escape from the power struggles of war is unremarkable, however McIntosh contextualises many excellent notes about the French Caribbean literary tradition, especially about the writing of Edouard Glissant. Another highlight is the exploration of the position of Mayotte Capécia, the first female author from the French Caribbean to publish in Paris, who showed the expectations placed on migrant women writers in her time. This will remind many of the intelligentsia based in France of Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet who translated Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica into French, which still remains the industry standard translation of the work in Francophone mathematical physics.