THE DANCING OTHER, Suzanne Dracius’s novel

Book review in Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies
dimanche 2 juillet 2023
popularité : 33%

Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies 11.2 (2020)

The Dancing Other. By SUZANNE DRACIUS, translated by NANCY NAOMI CARLSON and CATHERINE MAIGRET KELLOGG. London ; New York ; Calcutta : Seagull Books, 2018. 256 pp. Pb £16.99. ISBN : 978-0857424-79-2.

Book Review


Her literature addresses themes which are crucial to the Caribbean imaginary, such as racial identity, gender relations, and the ongoing historical and cultural legacies of slavery. Although her contributions have been acknowledged by the French literary establishment—distinctions include the Prix de la Société des Poètes Français in 2010 for her poetic œuvre—her works have not gained as much currency in academic discourse as those written by other French Caribbean authors such as Patrick Chamoiseau, Gisèle Pineau, or Maryse Condé.
Nancy Naomi Carlson and Catherine Maigret Kellogg endeavour to change this with their publication of Dracius’s 1989 novel L’Autre qui danse. Interestingly, an Italian translation of this text was published in 2010, eight years before the English translation was published, suggesting a pan-European interest in her work. Carlson had already worked with Dracius before embarking on the translation of this novel : Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction, a translation of Dracius’s poetry collection Exquise déréliction métisse (2008) was published in 2016. In an interview for the Washington Independent Review of Books in July 2019, Carlson explains the translation process behind The Dancing Other : Kellogg would provide a literal translation of each section, and Carlson would then work to infuse Dracius’s rhythmic writing style back into the English-language text.(68) Such a process reveals the translators’ desire to transmit Dracius’s poetic and lyrical style of writing to non-francophone readers.

Overall, The Dancing Other is an excellent work of translation which is faithful to Dracius’s unique literary style. The novel raises important issues of patriarchy, intersectionality, and gendered migration between the metropole and the Caribbean islands. The questions it evokes about internal identitarian struggles and the Black female condition are universal issues which require our urgent attention in a world still divided by racial and gendered inequalities. Indeed, Dracius’s wider œuvre treats similar issues of race, belonging, and identity in an equally engaging manner. I thus hope that this English-language translation of L’Autre qui danse will pave the way for subsequent translations of her writing in English and in other languages.

Notes :
– Nancy Naomi Carlson and Carrie Callaghan, ‘An Interview with Nancy Naomi Carlson’, Washington Independent Review of Books, 9 July 2019
– Suzanne Dracius, ‘Femmes, féminitude, féminisme : An Afternoon with Suzanne Dracius’, Interview by Jennifer Jahn, International Journal of Francophone Studies, 11.3 (2008), 417-450 (p. 424).

– Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies 11.2 (2020) The Dancing Other