La mulâtresse Solitude Between History and Literature

tanlistwa, Statue, La mulâtresse Solitude, Jacky Poulier

 Reading time: Around 3 minutes.
 –> Lire la version française de cet article  flag-fr-1

I took advantage of the end-of-year celebrations to immerse myself in good literature. This year, I fell in love with André Schwarz-Bart’s book La mulâtresse Solitude. As I was recently telling you about Louis Delgrès, I thought it would be nice to say a few words to you about this other emblematic figure of the tragic struggle against the restoration of slavery in Guadeloupe in May 1802. Today, I am talking to you about the Guadeloupean Solitude, a symbol of women’s struggle for freedom.

La mulâtresse Solitude, a little history and a lot of literature

As unfortunately too often for the history of women in this period, there is very little information in historical sources. What we know about the life of Solitude is mostly part of the legendary story. What are we sure of? Nothing much. Everything we know (or think we know) comes from a few lines written by Auguste Lacour in his Histoire de la Guadeloupe.

tanlistwa-mulatresse-solitude-histoire-guadeloupe-lacour.png

« La mulâtresse Solitude, who came from Pointe-à-Pitre to Basse-Terre, was then in the Palermo camp. She let her hatred and fury burst out on all occasions. She had rabbits. One of them having escaped, she armed herself with a pin, ran, pierced him, lifted him up, and presented him to the prison women: « Here, » she said, « by mixing with her words the most offensive epithets, this is how I will treat you when it is time! » And this unfortunate woman was about to become a mother! Solitude did not abandon the rebels and remained close to them, like their evil genius, to excite them to the greatest crimes. Finally arrested in the company of a gang of insurgents, she was sentenced to death, but the sentence had to be postponed. She was supplicied on 29 November, after her delivery. »

Resistant, captured, pregnant, condemned to death, suplicied in 1802. Yes, really, that’s all… I haven’t found any older sources yet. The rest of its history is what we can legitimately imagine. And in this game, Schwarz-Bart’s novel is very good.

tanlistwa-mulatresse_solitude-livre

In the story, we first follow the destiny of Bayangumay, born in Africa, who suffered the difficult crossing of the Atlantic and the enslavement on a Guadeloupean habitation. The author makes her the mother of Solitude. The novel then turns to what Solitude’s life may have been like from childhood until his death. I do not develop any more to let you discover the story for yourself.

In any case, I was not disappointed: the literary style, the progression, the psychological construction of the characters and the nuanced development of the relationships between the different people… really caught me up as the pages went by. I came out with the desire to read a sequel, which L’Ancêtre en Solitude should do. In fact, it is a good book if you want to get closer to what the slave trade and slavery in the French Caribbean meant, because the proposed historical universe is credible and documented. This is the kind of book I would recommend to history students at university to think about the life of slaves on colonial plantations, the painful relationship to colour, the resistance….

Solitude, the symbolic construction for the collective memory

tanlistwa-la-mulatresse-solitude-statue

Step by step, the mulatto Solitude has entered into the collective memory of Guadeloupe and even beyond. In 1999, a statue representing her and whose features are made by Jacky Poulier was inaugurated by the municipality of Abymes in Guadeloupe. Another statue created by the sculptor Nicolas Alquin was then erected in 2007 in Bagneux as part of the commemorations of the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. UNESCO has honoured her in an educational file. Her name and history are increasingly being used to remind us of the history of black women.

And you, do you know of any other historical sources that speak of Solitude? Do you have in mind women figures of resistance to the oppression of slavery?


Bibliographie
Schwarz-Bart (André), La mulâtresse Solitude, Paris, éd. du Seuil, 1972.
Note: the Simone and André Schwarz-Bart couple have co-written several novels written by either or both hands, particularly concerning Jewish and Caribbean history.

Archives
Bibliothèque nationale de France,
Lacour Auguste, Histoire de la Guadeloupe 1798 à 1803, T. 3, Impr. du gouvernement (Basse-Terre (Guadeloupe)), 1837-1858 .

Iconography
Manioc.org dans un article sur la mulâtresse Solitude

Webography (French)

Une réflexion sur “La mulâtresse Solitude Between History and Literature

Répondre

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Google

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Google. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur la façon dont les données de vos commentaires sont traitées.