From a Prix Goncourt writer hailed by Milan Kundera as the 'heir of Joyce and Kafka,' a novel, first published in France in 1997, about an escaped slave in Martinique and the killer hound that pursues him.
Slave Old Man conjures a metamorphosis of similar pathos and wonder ... Mr. Chamoiseau writes in a wild medley of French and Creole, sliding from dialect to classical expression like a freeform jazz musician. Linda Coverdale’s translation, the first in English, is gloriously unshackled, reveling in what she calls Mr. Chamoiseau’s 'fond disrespect for words' to forge innovative musical phrasings. The forest of world literature can be a bewildering place to navigate and one good trick is to find a translator you trust and follow her wherever she leads. Those who do so with Ms. Coverdale, one of the best French translators working, will discover such marvelous writers as Jean Echenoz, Emmanuel Carrère and Annie Ernaux. And they will come to this beautiful book, by a writer who’s as original as any I’ve read all year.
Slave Old Man is Chamoiseau’s strongest work since his masterpiece, Texaco ... Slave Old Man is a cloudburst of a novel, swift and compressed — but every page pulses, blood-warm ... The prose is so electrifyingly synesthetic that, on more than one occasion, I found myself stopping to rub my eyes in disbelief.
Passages rich with imagery and music, occasionally flecked with vivid creole vernacular, can be plucked from any paragraph on any page. One can’t help but wonder why it took so long for this treasure to be translated into English. But it is here now, and the world Chamoiseau creates through the eyes of this aging runaway reveals the enduring cruelty of bondage and the endless creativity of its survivors and their descendants.