A Shoah classic resurfacing : the strange destiny of The last of the just (André Schwarz-Bart) in the African diaspora
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Prooftexts. - Bloomington, Ind.
, p. 229-262
University of Antwerp
Although André Schwarz-Bart's first novel, Le dernier des justes, was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1959, the novel and author remained in the margins of canonized Shoah literature. Numerous readers and anthologies exclude the francophone Polish Jewish author who turned to the African diaspora as a parallel universe to write about the haunting specter of the concentration-camp universe and Auschwitz. In this article, I will demonstrate how two of the most prolific and talented young African-American novelists and critics have borrowed from this tour de force (without openly admitting it). John Edgar Wideman and Caryl Phillips write back, in various ways, to this neglected masterpiece. Both have recognized in this pioneering cross-racial approach the multidimensional memory connecting black and Jewish diasporas. Indeed, André Schwarz-Bart intertwined all of his (auto-) fictional writing with the traumas suffered by black (Caribbean) people. It is, therefore, all the more problematic that this writer in the margins has been doubly excluded: almost absent in Holocaust Studies, he remains silenced in the francophone Caribbean realm by novelists and critics of the post-Négritude movement (Chamoiseau and Confiant, Glissant). This deception left the author shattered and hollow, like his main protagonists, Ernie Lévy from The Last of the Just, Mariotte in Un plat de porc (1967), or Solitude from La mulâtresse Solitude (1972), as he confesses in his posthumous circumfession/testament L'Etoile du matin (Morning Star, 2009).