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.

Bald Soprano Reflection

The play without question did its job at being nothing short of absurd. From the offsetting blue background to the oversexualized interaction between the fire chief and the maid, the play did a phenomenal job in illustrating that same absurdity portrayed in the text. I have to admit I had no faith that this play would be of any sort of entertainment or match-up to the text, but within the opening moments of the play, I realized I enjoyed the play more then the text itself. The text confused the hell out of me, and I guess seeing the play made the comedic side more visible, and a bit less random. With that being said the play is still absurd, but I understand now that that is the end goal to the play anyway, which is what makes it what it is.

I want to address some of the more obvious aspects of the play first that I had noticed. Firstly, the emotions within different conversations swopped out for one another compared to that within the text. The martins were no longer the “lively” relief to the text. Instead the Smith’s took that role in the production, and the Martin’s interactions were super boring to listen to in person, but I think that was what was intended, and it definitely made the portrayal stronger having that contrast. The art of defamiliarization was heavy throughout the play. This brings me to my next point, which lies with the changing of the accents. I love accents, and I was beyond stoked to hear a portrayal of a British accent, which can always be very well done or horrible to listen to. I thought the decision to use a traditional American dialogue, and tone was a smarter choice, because not only is faking an accent tough, but also it wouldn’t have added to the defamiliarization process, and given the play the fire that it had.

The clock was one of the most crucial aspects to the play for me. It felt like it never stopped ringing, and that added just made everything else going on seem more comedic, and ridiculous. The off-setting blue wall color, the clock ringing constantly, and all the other defamiliarization aspects of the play all lead to the end which I thought was awesome in person. The lighting added to just how crazy the play really is, and I think the cast, and director couldn’t have done a better job. The lightening fluctuated, and became more intense, and all the characters moved about, screaming, and yelling, and that’s the moment I realized how awesome the play really is. I have to be honest I didn’t care for the text at all, but after seeing the play, it put a new perspective, and appreciation for the absurdity behind the entire idea of the play itself, and I think on a deeper level, the play made me realize some things about our own lives that are also absurd. The whole concept of the absurd conversations made me think during the production about how across the globe, culture has desensitized us, and many many people are focusing their energy on all the wrong things in life. I looked deeper past the face value portion of the play, and tried to decipher it’s intentions, which in turn made it more enjoyable for me.


“The Uncanny” In The Prisoner Of Azkaban

In Sigmund Freud’s essay, “The Uncanny,” he says within the middle portion of his essay that, “I will say at once that both courses lead to the same result: the uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar.” Freud aims throughout his essay, to analyze this theme of our unconscious reminding us of our repressions. Freud discusses an idea he refers to as, “heimlich,” and its opposite “unheimlich.” Freud explains how heimlich in turn “becomes to be unheimlich,” and its so, because “on one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight.” (826) Freud ends this section of his essay by concluding, that “everything is unheimlich that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light.” With this comes the input of this theory to J.K Rowling’s The Prisoner Of Azkaban.

The general feeling of uneasy is what makes the Harry Potter series what it is. Harry has so much that he doesn’t know, and its this crucial aspect of uncanniness, that creates a very dark, mysterious feel to the entire series. The danger feeling of unease, and imminent danger weighs heavy throughout the entire storyline. I believe J.K Rowling had some sort of background knowledge about this technique of illustrating uncanniness within her story. The audience is made to believe that the dementors are exactly what they are said to be, that being the protectors of Azkaban. Harry isn’t the only individual who is being conditioned here. Harry has many experiences with the dementors that proves the opposite of what is being conditioned upon him. The dementors serve as the obvious contradiction that Freud discussed above. The dementors on one side, demonstrate something seemingly harmless, but when evidence proves otherwise, they become something beyond what we are told. The dementors become the unconscious repressions that Harry struggles with throughout the entire series. The dementors although a significant illustration of the uncanny, are not the only example.


Another key aspect of uncanniness throughout the story can be seen through the reveal of Sirius Black. He is a prisoner to Harry, and the audience, but just like the twist with the dementors, there’s a twist here as well. Sirius is revealed as an actually good natured guy as well as a bigger reveal of being Harry’s godfather. What’s also revealed is that Sirius is also an Animagus. It’s Siriu’s presumed “bad nature,” that sets the tone for the heimlich/unheimlich effect. Everyone fears this man, but he in fact is of good nature, and as a result becomes a close ally to Harry. The illustration of the uncanny here, is within the character of Sirius Black, and his contradictory portrayal. Like a lot of aspects throughout the series though, the exact opposite is later revealed, and the plot changes in this way. 0a4a7df0-e227-0133-1faa-0e1a8cd64d33

Of course there are many more examples of uncanniness through the novel, and the entire series, but these two struck me as the most significant within the framework of this particular novel. This brings me back to my introduction, and ties into my conclusion when I say that, I believe J.K Rowling was aware of the concept of uncanniness when writing the novel. There are too many illustrations of uncanniness for it to be merely coincidence. I want to conclude the blog by saying how the series is without a doubt cut short of it’s true nature, and potential without the input of uncanniness and eeriness. It’s this factor that makes the series such an enjoyable experience. 45f2e5192d87ae6f01541dc87a744365.jpg


Gender Roles & Toys

Within Roland Barthes’ various “mythologies essays,” he narrows his focus in one of his essays, on the idea of gender roles related to toys within French culture. “French toys always mean something, and this something is always entirely socialized, constituted by the myths or the techniques of modern adult life.”(53) This type of gender oriented aim for the production of toys reflects across many cultures. I’d like to relate Barthes’ essay to the gender specific toy production through the Japanese industry. Even In japan you see toys specific to gender, preparing these kids, and conditioning them, for these various future  gender specific roles. Girl toys include the stereotypical baking and cooking sets, as well as realistic baby toys where you take care of the baby as you would if it were your own. Boys receive the more masculine, and once again stereotypical, gun toys, doctor/police kits, and many more career conditioning ideological toys. It’s no secret that these toys are made with a purpose, and that purpose is to engineer children at a young age for their imminent gender roles in society as they grow up.

I would like to compare two Japanese toy commercials, which illustrate just how gender focused the toy industry really is, even overseas. The first commercial demonstrates a fully equipped doctors office within an ambulance. This toy comes with a “baby alive”girl doll as well, and the purpose of the toy is to condition young girls to begin practicing taking care of children. The more female generated color schemes within the toy itself combined with the girl doll, only add to the underlying conditioning process.


The second video illustrates a “space ray gun” toy from the 60’s, which includes real sparks that come out of the barrel, loud noises, and “lots of action.” This toy conditions boys to begin practicing violence, and become geared towards these sort of ideologies. It’s hard to believe this sort of toy was sold to children. Barthes writes how, “French toys literally prefigure the world of adult functions obviously cannot but prepare the child to accept them all.”(53) These toys have more of an impact on children then companies realize.

The striking difference in ideological representations through the gender specific toys, is obvious in it’s intentions, but striking. I would like to include a picture of a girls toy in Japan that actually DEMONSTRATES child birth for young girls. Following that photo I want to include a more recent Japanese toy for young boys, which although extremely manly and incredible In my opinion, a very gender specific toy targeting the masculinity of young boys, furthermore conditioning them for violence and images of authority, and power.


The first toy is extremely shocking, in the fact that it is obviously too graphic, and realistic for young girls. For the picture below it, former president Barack Obama, can be seen wielding a pistol, katana, rapping into a microphone, and even fighting off Darth Vader. These are two polar extremes of the ideological conditioning amongst gender and toys, but if these pictures don’t demonstrate gender conditioning, I’m not sure what can. Despite the fact that gender specific toys are on the decline, and more gender neutral toys are being produced, the overhanging affect children’s toys have on children’s subconscious, and in this case Japanese children’s toys, is still very much an issue in subconsciously conditioning young children for their stereotypical adult roles. I want to provide an example as to how gender assumed roles and toys are drastically changing as the globe conforms to more accepting and universal ideologies. I think the picture will speak for itself so I will leave it without further explanation.


I want to conclude my post by including what I believe to be the most important quote in Barthes’ essay. “However, faced with this world of faithful and complicated objects, the child can only identify himself as owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it:there are, prepared for him, actions without adventure, without wonder, without joy.”(54) Barthes is onto something deeper here, outlining how toys today, are not only conditioning our children, but are setting them up for a lack of creativity. The real emotions, and experiences children should be undergoing are being stripped from them, and replaced by plastic toys cheaply made toys conditioning the minds of our adolescence.