The Overseer's Cabin


The Overseer's Cabin

Édouard Glissant
Translated by Betsy Wing

224 pages
1 genealogy


May 2011


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

With Édouard Glissant’s The Fourth Century, the Village Voice observed, “we get the full effect of his overarching project: a literary exorcism of Martinique’s scarred psyche and past, a lingering cry against the ‘black hole of time and forgetting.’” Glissant, “one of the most significant figures in Caribbean literature” (Washington Post), continues that project in The Overseer’s Cabin, conjuring in one woman’s story centuries knotted together by unknown blood, voiceless suffering, and death without echo.
Beginning with the birth in 1928 of Mycea, the last of the intertwining ancestral families introduced in The Fourth Century, and ending with her release from an asylum in 1978, the novel moves back and forth across a framework that weaves the story of Mycea’s family against the legacy of Martinique as an island whose history and indigenous people have all but been erased. From the beginnings of Mycea’s family in the tale of two blood brothers, both named Odono, to its ending with the fate of her two sons, the novel encapsulates the island’s destiny in one Martinican woman’s plight. With the past irretrievable and the future in doubt, Mycea journeys inward, finding in her connection to the land of Martinique, and to the seafloor littered with drowned slaves, a reality, and a possibility, uncolonized by others’ history.

Author Bio

Édouard Glissant (born 1928) is a Martinican playwright, critic, essayist, and novelist. Betsy Wing’s previous translations include Paule Constant’s White Spirit, Glissant’s The Fourth Century, and Hélène Cixous’s The Book of Promethea, all available from the University of Nebraska Press.


"In this important French Caribbean writer's world, past is present, and his lush prose demands to be gulped, not read."—Publishers Weekly

"The contents of The Overseer's Cabin lift out of a flat page and become a life-world that moves the reader. Without forcing, the book reveals an uncomplicated representation of humanity."—Janelle Adsit, Foreword

Table of Contents

From the Quotidien des Antilles, September 4, 1978

Head on Fire

      Trace of the Time Before

      A Pact with Powers

      Tales of Saving Faith

      The Lovers' Reliquary

The Center of Time

      Burnt-over Memories

      Bestiary: Light and Dark

      The Ledger of Suffering

      Acts of War

First Animal

      In Two Places at Once

      Inventory of Tools

      Sound of Somewhere Else

      Rock of Opacity

From the Quotidien des Antilles, September 13, 1978

An Attempt to Classify the Relations between the Families Béluse, Targin, Longoué, Celat

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