Interview with Gisèle Pineau in Miami
Mrs. Gisèle Pineau, welcome to Miami! Are you familiar with Florida, and have you ever had the opportunity to attend the Miami International Book Fair which is one of the largest book fairs in the United States?
GP: Hello to you and to all lovers of literature. I have had the chance to visit Florida, like many Caribbean, on the occasion of fieldtrips. This is the first time that I am invited to this great literary event, and I feel very honored. I come from Marie-Galante, a French territory near Guadeloupe. I like the idea of being able to bring a voice from these small islands of the French West Indies to the Anglophone world with which I share a lot on a geographic level, but also on an environmental and cultural level. One could say that we all swim in the same waters, we experience the same migration patterns, we are affected by the same furies from the sky and the same earthquakes.
As an author from Guadeloupe, you will meet with Haitian artists and authors: Mimerose Beaubrun, Myriam Chancy, Gessica Génésus and Sophia Fécu. Can you give us some idea of the general theme that will be discussed at the Miami International Book Fair and what it means to you?
As an author, I am happy to meet and exchange with Haitian authors. We have a lot in common. I have been to Haiti on many occasions to attend literary events, notably the “Festival Etonnants Voyageurs” and the “Festival des Amériques insulaires.” I often meet Haitian authors who travel the world and I have known them for many years. I feel a kinship to the Haitian people. My most recent novel evokes the destiny of a young Haitian woman who arrives to Guadeloupe a few months after the terrible earthquake of January 12, 2010. In this text, I account of the situation of a number of Haitians who came to take refuge in the French Caribbean islands – how they live day to day, clandestinely, often exploited on banana plantations, having no choice but to face a hostile population full of prejudice. While writing this novel, it was also important for me to deal with the situation of all migrants who come and go on this planet, pushed from their homes by dictatorships, persecutions, natural disasters, war, misery and hunger.
You have published many novels that have been translated into several languages. What is your relationship to the French language, and do you sometimes write in other languages?
I began to write novels at the age of ten. I am born in Paris and grew up in a project area of a Parisian suburb thriving with racism and xenophobia. Reading from great authors saved my life. Writing came as a consolence and allowed me to confront this world that is so rejecting. I built my self through the French language by merging it with the Creole language of my paternal grandmother. I write both in Creole and in French in order to remain true to the characters in my novels, to be able to hear the uproar in their hearts and their true selves. I have always loved the power of words. I love stories. I have read so many… I love to tell and invent stories by basing them on reality, including its beauty and its violence.
In Miami, you will present your novel: “L’âme prêtée aux oiseaux” during the Miami Book Fair International; may I ask why you chose to speak about this specific novel?
I will present “L’âme prêtée aux oiseaux” in Miami as it has just been translated into English. This is a novel that travels throughout the Caribbean, but that also makes stops in Paris and in New York. It tells the story of love, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. How do we know if we are loved? Can one measure the love that we have for another than oneself, to a man, to a woman or to one’s children? The reader also travels in time, from slavery to World War II in France. The main characters are women: a Parisian woman tormented by her past and an impossible love story with a black American soldier who came to liberate Paris; a young woman from Guadeloupe arriving in Paris with her son. They will learn from each other, and together they will heal their love wounds.
Are you currently writing a new novel or working on any other artistic projects that you can tell us about?
My new novel is in the works. I tell the story of a family that finds itself in Guadeloupe after a major discord. The children are all grown up and live far away from their native island. As the family reunites, the memories come back. It is a story about resilience and redemption.
This interview was conducted by the press service of the French Consulate in Miami.