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The Bridge of Beyond

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  375 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Tells of the survival power of the women of Guadeloupe who live in conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation and yet are filled with courage and love for life.
Paperback, 174 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1972)
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Simone Schwarz-Bart's classic novel The Bridge of Beyond, which will be released by NYRB on August 20, 2013, is an ode to the spirit of the women of Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles, caught between a colonial past and an uncertain future. In her prose, Schwarz-Bart captures the rhythm of language in Guadeloupe, as well as the longevity of folk traditions, spirits and magic, alongside a Christianity brought to the islands by French colonists. More than anything else, this magical, heart-rending, ...more
'Talk to me about life, Grandmother. Talk to me about that.'
At times I feel that these books of mine are being read for nothing more than their location on the map, another pinpoint prick in the wide geographical plane that in this case happened to land on Guadeloupe of all places. Well, what of it? Reading is for the narcissists, writing for the egotistical neurotics, so why shouldn't I funnel these urges down paths whose very nature seeks out the strange and unfamiliar? A recently come acros
Claire McAlpine
Absolutely brilliant, astonishing, loved it, one of my Top Reads of 2016 for sure.

Telumee is the last in a line of proud Lougandor women on the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe.
In the first part we learn about her people, her mother Victory,
"a laundress, wearing out her wrists on flat stones in the rivers, and her linen emerged like new from under the heavy waxed irons"

her father, his life cut short in a fatal stabbing,
"Angebert, had led a reserved and silent existence, effacing himself s
The characters in this novel of Guadeloupe do not speak in a patois but in aphorisms, in flora and fauna. Like Elie, who will not deserve our sympathy, who says this:

I'm not a gladiolus; I can't promise you whether I'll come out of the earth red or yellow. Tomorrow our water may turn into vinegar or into wine, but if it's vinegar, don't curse me, but let your maledictions sleep in the hollow of the bombax tree.

At the risk of plot-spoiling, Elie is no flower, but yellow enough, and definitely vin
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a galley of this via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not alter my opinions of the work.

This book is a great capture of life on a Caribbean island not too long ago dominated by slavery. Strong female characters, with parts and chapters focusing on different stories from their lives, but very reflective of the hardships in their unique situation. My favorite element was the relationship between Telumee ("Mama Miracle") and her grandmother ("Queen Without a Name.")
Catherine Anderson
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Catherine by: Washington & Lee University
It isn’t easy to get your hands on a copy of Simone Schwarz-Bart’s The Bridge of Beyond, but it’s definitely worth the trouble. This novel is emotionally poignant, at times bittersweet, but ultimately uplifting. Schwarz-Bart tells the story of Telumee, the great-granddaughter of a freed slave in Guadeloupe, as she works her way through love, poverty, family deaths, and especially the slave legacy of her ancestors. The novel is endearingly local, as it lets the reader in on the secrets of the to ...more
James Murphy
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A simple story, the life of Telumee in rural Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. The story of a simple life told in plain, unadorned language--originally in French, translated by Barbara Bray--but language whose resonance in describing such a gentle life among the unassuming, happy villagers of Fond-Zombi rings with the universality of peasant lives cultivated in both a closely-knit community and their providential environment. This may be the plain language of a simple people, but it is beautifully-wr ...more
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strong! Female! Characters!

I haven't had a ton of luck with Caribbean literature in the past but I feel like this was a novel I've been waiting for ALL YEAR. This book is about the women-the men come and go around them, but it's really about the development of these characters as black women in the historical context of Guadeloupe and it's just SO GOOD, such an antidote to the awful male protagonists I've been reading about lately. Beautifully written, too. One of my favorites so far this year.
Nicholas During
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took a French post-colonial lit class in college and after reading this book am surprised that it wasn't included. The Bridge of Beyond is a story about the horrors of French colonialism in Guadeloupe, it does have a magic realist feel to it, with a little bit of magic and humans controlled by inevitable fates, but really it is a story about a family and the island they live on. Though much of the story of the three generations of Lougador women is very sad, the book doesn't slow down to the s ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-tour
This is a beautifully written story from Guadeloupe, told through the lives of several generations of women. Part One starts with the emancipation of the slaves and Minerva moving to l'Abandonnee, then follows her daughter, Toussine, and grand-daughter, Victory. Part Two is much longer and tells the life story of Victory's younger daughter, Telumee, who is the narrator of the book. The men in the book are minor characters, some leave, other, nicer ones stay and die, but none leave more than chil ...more
J.M. Hushour
This is not to say that this is not a good book, but the more one reads, the more one can easily discern between a book that is formally "good" and a book that one doesn't necessarily like very much.
Formally, stylistically, "Bridge" is pretty great. An aging Guadeloupean woman recounts her woeful life as a poor girl growing up in the post-slavery era, her various loves, her relations with other women, especially her grandmother, and the general shitty state of life. The language is very prosaic,
Jackson Cyril
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It would be easy to declare this a masterpiece of 20th century feminist Caribbean literature, though that it undoubtedly is. But when one considers the lush descriptions of Guadeloupe, the vibrant community of women who hold this novel together, its flawed characters who live-- in the purest and best sense of that oft over-used word, and its lush, incantatory prose, which fuses carib oral literatures with the swaying rhythms of SChwarz-Bart's French, one can, without much injustice, deem this to ...more
Mike Clinton
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a perfect example of why I subscribe to the NYRB Classics series, since otherwise I likely would never have known about, let alone read, it. It recounts the life and arduous times of Telumee Lougandor, a woman of the Antillean island of Guadeloupe during the early 1900s or so. It's told in Telumee's own voice, beginning with an account of her family reaching back to the last generation of slavery, following through to her own youth spent under the wise and caring guidance of her gr ...more
Daniel Gamboa
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an experience it was to have read this novel. Comparable in style to Isabel Allende, "The Bridge of Beyond" is not only the story of Telumee or the women of Guadeloupe, but also the history of an island, or of the entire Caribbean?

Simone Schwarz-Bart is a skillful writer, and it is noticeable by her use of the language. The entire novel feels narrated by a shaman, whose metaphors and riddles are enthralling and spellbinding to the point of intoxication. Reading the novel feels like steppi
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated, favorites
What a beautiful, haunting book. The plot doesn't matter, one doesn't read this kind of book for the plot.
The prose flows and the voice of Telumee is mesmerizing.
The story she tells matters less than the lesson that life is waves of suffering, but it is also beautiful so we need to be the rider, not rhe horse.
Highly, highly recommended.

I reread this beautiful, lyrical, mesmerizing, haunting, heartbreaking, hopeful story in one sitting. I can not recommended this book enough. It deserves the wide
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was an easy read, showcasing the strength of Caribbean women in the face of the social and economic hardships they are plagued by. Despite some horrendous conditions, most of the narrative is laced with the quiet strength these women possess. My one criticism is that the narrative at some points seems void of direction, although I believe this is most likely intentional (but frustrating none-the-less).
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mar 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: here, nyrb, translation, 2016
love the writing here, but i am more than halfway through and still not into it at all. might give it another go sometime soon though, because i feel like this is a case of "it's me, not you".
I have read few books that describe place and community so completely. After finishing this book, it is impossible not to have a firm grasp on what early/mid 20th century life was like on such an island. The author does a great job of using the narrative to define the traditions and practices of this agrarian community, rather that spelling everything out with a chapter or two early in the book. I think that is because the citizenry of Guadeloupe, as a whole, is a principle character.
With all of
3.5 because this writing and its themes are nearly a 5 star rating all on their own. Definitely a book I'm glad I took my time with. Not that you would want to put this one down much while reading it, but it's particular cadence wants you to luxuriate with it as it goes along. Full review to come.
Andre Habet
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'What happiness!'
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bridge of Beyond
Author: Simone Schwarz-Bart
Original title in French: Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle (1972)
Also by Schwarz-Bart: In Praise of Black Women (Hommage à la femme noire, 1989), a multi-volume encyclopedia of the black heroines absent from dominant historical accounts but who have nevertheless lived on in oral narratives, folk legends, and cultural memory.

The Bridge of Beyond is a beautiful and inspiring story of generations of peasant women persevering in the face of crushing po
Where have you been all my life, Simone Schwartz-Bart? I stumbled upon her husband, Andre Schwartz-Bart's book, A Woman Named Solitude, at our annual YMCA book fair (where I often find more obscure titles), and it led me to Simone Schwartz-Bart and this book, and for that I am grateful. The Bridge of Beyond is one of the most beautiful and enchanting books I have read in a long time. It is the story of peasants on the island of Guadeloupe--a life almost as merciless and cruel as work in the cane ...more
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this story. It is simply and powerfully written. On the back cover, a reviewer from the Financial Times says, "There's magic, madness, glory, tenderness, above all abundant hope." I found all those descriptions true of the characters though the book left me feeling without hope. Or rather, solidified my own feelings of the futility of being human. To me, there is this strange and unconscious drive to live, at all costs, by all means. But why do we do that? What virtue in mere exis ...more
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
To me the book was a lyrical prose devoted to Télumée's odyssey of life. Although sympathetic toward women of color fighting against the cruelties of life in the harsh post-slavery (should I say post-colonial?) Antillean society, the book is not as solemn and somber as a socio-realist book is expected to be. The heroine and narrator of the book was more poet than a proletariat. I am wondering if a typical colored working woman is that much poetic. No wonder the French title reads as Pluie et Ven ...more
Oct 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, obviously!
Narrated by Télumée, a black-francophone-Caribbean woman tells her life story of struggle within the confines of an ethnically disorienting and often cruel environment. I was pleasantly surprised at not only the emotional depth but the intelligence and strength of this book, which illuminates a world of which I was (and, likely, will always somewhat remain) totally ignorant. If not to learn about the world and lives outside most Americans' psyche, give it a go just for the ease of the prose and ...more
Maa jed
داستان و ترجمه هر دو خیلی خوبن اما اون چیزی که آزاردهنده ست بیان صریح و بی پرده ی نگرش یک سیاه پوست به دنیاست که واقعن حتی قبل از اینکه دیگران بخوان اونو سیاه بدونن خودش برای خودش قرنطینه و شخصیت مادون سفید تعریف کرده و این طرز تفکر هیچوقت به صاحبش اجازۀ هیچ حرکتی نمیده . مطلب بعدی اینکه باز به همین نگرش برمیگرده اینه که انگار سیاه برای خودش خوشی و شادی را تعریف نکرده به محض اینکه زندگی براش شادی رقم میزنه در همان هنگام بجای شادی مرتبن در حال جستجوی بدبختی و فلاکت است که از کدام سمت و به چه شکلی ...more
Feb 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this back in college when I was studying Caribbean Francophone literature, and it is still my favorite book, even 12 years later. In English its called The Bridge Beyond, and Im not sure how much it will lose when translated, but it is a beautifully written book in French and I will be rereading it again soon. The strength of the main character through all of the trials and tribulations that life brings her growing up in Guadeloupe, where both magic and reality are blended seamlessly, has ...more
Am on p. 74. When does it get good?
Update: I abandoned it with 100 pages to go. I wanted to be interested in the story, but the narrator's detached tone was maddening. I understand the author's choice in keeping the reader at arm's length, but that style just doesn't work for me, and I seem to have a turned into an extra-impatient reader lately.

It got an overall thumbs-up from most of the book group members.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phinney-books
Somehow admitting that I didn't love this book feels like a personal failure, as so many literate folks before me have claimed it as a literary classic. Yet, despite this, I found the book left me disoriented, wondering what the meaning could be behind the endless stream of metaphors used in place conversation by the characters. No doubt the deficit lies with my inferior imagination, my insistence on answers and reasons.
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Simone Schwarz-Bart (née Brumant) is a French novelist and playwright of Gouadeloupean origin.

Simone Brumant was born on January 8, 1938 at Saintes in the Charente-Maritime province of France. Her place of birth is not clear, however, as she has also stated that she was born in Pointe-à-Pitre.

Her parents were originally from Guadeloupe. Her father was a soldier while her mother was a teacher. When
More about Simone Schwarz-Bart...