Solibo Magnificent; A Book Review On The Significance Of Storytelling Within The Creole Culture

It’s no secret for those who have read Solibo Magnificent by Patrick Chamoiseau, it’s a beautiful illustration of literary technique, and deeper meaning. There are many metaphors and deeper messages to be uncovered within the text, which contributes to the overarching messages, and takeaways behind the story.


I would like to start by firstly stating that, for those who haven’t read the text you should without a doubt do so. “Patat’ sa!” (Chamoiseau, 8) This was Solibo’s last word before passing away within the first pages of the text, whilst storytelling in the crowded streets of Fort de France during a carnival. There is a greater significance behind this word, and this is just one example of how language plays a central role to how it both constitutes the world within the text, but also how the characters are oriented through the cultural contexts within the story. The word “Patat’ sa” is translated to “This potato!,” in the text. This would seem silly to some, but the significance concerning this word revolves around how it serves as a sort of guideline as a way to define Solibo’s character, and what he stands for. It was the way Solibo wanted to be remembered, and the imprint he wanted to leave, that being through his creative, goofy, genuine, storytelling, and warmth. It’s Solibo’s character of which exemplified the art and cultural aspect of storytelling, but beyond this Solibo knew that the world around him wasn’t on the same page, which is why he did what he did, in hopes to change it. No one fully appreciated Solibo’s art until he had passed, because the culture around him had their backs turned to his talents. I’m going to make the argument here that the relationship between the French and Creole cultures, and language usages is what constitutes the “world” within the text. The entire novel demonstrates how both cultures, and their languages, bash against one another. The two cultural aspects, the French and the Creole, and their linguistic properties, make up the entire text, and it’s this central concept that constitutes everything that happens after the first pages of the text. “The world” in the text is not only Solibo’s investigation, but deeper than that, the chaos that follows it, and the clash between the two cultures, which in turn brings me to my next point which includes the orientation aspect of the text.

The way in which these characters in the text are oriented can be seen through the connection through language. Language is the key ongoing idea throughout the text, and is what drives the characters decisions. The police become frustrated with the witness because of the linguistic tension, and misunderstanding, so a women is beat to death, and many others are beaten and locked away in cells. It’s this aspect of language, and misunderstanding that I think Chamoiseau is trying to get at here. This story reflects modern times fluidly in the sense that our police departments still, today mistreat African Americans simply, because of racial profiling, and cultural tension. This is course isn’t the only reference to modern occurrences, but is a more prominent one. Cultural tension can be seen in the text, and is what language works through throughout the text. Solibo’s practice of storytelling also served as a necessary aspect of orientation in order to salvage a very ancient tradition, and educate as well as entertain others. Although this ended upon Solibo’s passing, language as a whole, and the transition of the story reflect upon Solibo’s imprint on the culture of the story. Solibo more or less is THE symbol for creole language in the text, and Chamoiseau’s narrative works with this concept in such a beautiful way in which as I said above, the orientational aspect of the text revolves around the Creole culture as a whole. These methods of orientation are necessary in the sense that without them, the central concepts, and relationship of language would not be as fluid as it is through Chamoiseau’s narrative. The creole culture acts as the evidence of orientation, which is a reflection of the overarching concept of language, which defines the “world” of the story.

The religious aspect of the text can be seen through the Creole cultural aspects of the story combined with the significance, and interaction through language. Solibo’s uniqueness, and creativity act as a guideline for how the remainder of the text unfolds. There’s an inception-esque feel to the story. By this I mean Solibo’s art of being a storyteller is replaced by the other characters telling his story for him. I think that is what makes the novel so fun, and liberating. Back to what makes the modes of orientation religious, I would have to say this can be seen in language once more. These individuals were raised in this specific cultural setting and exposure and oriented in a specific way, and Solibo brought a new perspective to the table. Alongside this, the overarching metaphor behind how the townspeople thought Solibo had died by a “word,” and was rather not murdered, which is what the police immediately assumed, because of, once again, the clash of cultures. The aspect of religious input is scene through Chamoiseau’s narrative, and attention to how significant Solibo’s words really were, but how he more so lived on through the people around him after his passing. Looking deeper into a metaphorical sense I think Chamoiseau used Solibo as a peacemaker to the entirety of the story, and as a guideline to the structure of the orientation within the world of the text, that being of course the significance of language.

To conclude I want to include the ending to the novel, because it illustrates a “coming full circle” aspect to the text. Chamoiseau’s narrative ends on a positive note, as Solibo’s storytelling did not go unnoticed, and will forever be held in the Creole culture. More than this the language of Solibo will forever be immortalized. In terms of the novel once again I think Chamoiseau does an outstanding job including many metaphors through the life of Solibo, and the art that storytelling plays in that specific culture. More then this I give this book an 8.5 out of 10, and I highly recommend it’s content to new readers.

“And under the barrel Solibo will be all joy he’ll go to the countryless land where the sky is thirteen colors, plus the last color where all the weeds grow less often than the pacala yams, where Air-France got no terminal and where the bekes aint got no kind of plantation factory or big store, where the charcoal needs no fire and where the fire rises without charcoal, where you see children flying with wasps and butterflies, where the sun is a big ka-drum and the moon Is a lute, where the blackman is all joy all music all dance all syrup on life’s back, and where oh children where Solibo himself despite his big mouth and his big tongue, and his big throat, will no longer need . . .  hugckh . . . PATAT’ SA! . . . PATAT’ SA! . . .” (Chamoiseau, 172)

Solibo Magnificent

Patrick Chamoiseau

190 pages

Vintage International/Vintage Books

$15.00 USD

Chamoiseau, Patrick. Solibo Magnificent. New York: Vintage International. 1999. Print.

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