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Texaco

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  736 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Of black Martinican provenance, Patrick Chamoiseau gives us Texaco (winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize), an international literary achievement, tracing one hundred and fifty years of post-slavery Caribbean history: a novel that is as much about self-affirmation engendered by memory as it is about a quest for the adequacy of its own form.

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Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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WILLIAM2
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A glorious work of world literature. This multi-generational novel is set in and around Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France, Martinique. In the end it's the story about the shakedown of one impoverished "slum" or "shantytown"—Texaco—near modern-day Fort-de-France. The lives of the black people of Martinique are marked by trauma. At least half a dozen characters go mad during during the course of the novel. These are harrowing and riveting pages which are paradoxically rendered in a light and supple ...more
Jim
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, france
This book is a rare tropical flower that somehow landed in my musty library. It speaks to us in many voices, as the original was written in a mélange of mulatto French and Martinican Creole. It communicates to us not only in two languages, but in four narrative voices, the main one being excerpted from the notebooks of one Marie-Sophie Labourieux, recording her own words and the thoughts of her father, Esternome. Three other voices are those of "Word Scratcher," alias Oiseau de Cham (a pun on Ch ...more
Diana
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Texaco [1992] – ★★★★★

“You say “History” but that means nothing. So many lives, so many destinies, so many tracks go into the making of our unique path. You dare say History, but I say histories, stories. The one you take for the master stem of our manioc is but one stem among many others.…” “Some books shine through times, forever stirring spirits” [Chamoiseau, 1992/7: 325].

Some books have such a distinct, authentic voice, which tells of the plight of ordinary people, that they cannot fail to m
...more
Read By RodKelly
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The translators of this novel make a joke in the introduction that if they made this book readable then they have failed in their job. This is definitely a difficult read that challenged me in several ways but it was worth it in the end!

Texaco charts the founding of a majestic city and it's lively quarter, populated by resplendent and provocative people who speak in parables and riddles, guided by ancient cosmologies and auditory dreams that bend time and reality, so that the clear facts are nev
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Stephanie
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads
What a mash-up of a story! By the time I got to the end, I'd completely forgotten that the book had started with the arrival of the city planner, and thus the ending came full circle. In order to tell the story of Texaco, the main narrator goes back to tell her father's story, which also tells the story of Martinique from that point forward. The book is a pleasure for anyone who: has read other Francophone Caribbean novels, doesn't need a purely linear plot line, and likes word play and creativi ...more
Jonfaith
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This jewel was found in an Oxfam in Reading during the winter of 2004. Fuzzy strands of reviews past crackled in my dozy brain as I hefted it. The hunch proved correct and I was overwhelmed.

I have since bought another of his texts but have yet to take the plunge. Perhaps a reread of Texaco is due?
Robert
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Texaco begins in an epic way: A land contractor arrives in a Caribbean town called Texaco. Instantly not only is he hit by a rock but his arrival is told through four perspectives, including the narrator. A few pages onward and us readers find out that the contractor intends to raze Texaco as it is an eyesore. The narrator of the book then decides to relay the history of Texaco.

Judging by the first chapter the reader knows that this is going to be a big novel, and it is. Think of Gabriel Garcia
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Margie
I enjoyed the history of Martinique, the magical realism, and the theme of language as a key to identity (original was a mix of French and Creole). But this was slow and I didn't feel compelled to return to it.
Kobe Bryant
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like how the language evolved as it went on
Urenna Sander
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Madame Marie-Sophie Laborieux, born in the early 1900s, late in life to former slaves, Esternome Laborieux and Idoménée Carmélite Lapidaille. Long after her parents’ deaths, she founded the quarter known as Texaco in 1950, outside the city of Fort-de-France, Martinique. Texaco, owned by Texas Oil Company, had subsidiaries in South America and in the Caribbean. On Martinique, Texaco housed large tankers on land near a mangrove swamp.

Prior to Madame Laborieux deciding to build on Texaco’s propert
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Marc Kozak
May 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
It would be so easy to compare this to Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. So I will.

This book is very similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude, in that it is a story of the creation of a small Martinican town as it struggles against the craziness of the world around it, and the craziness of the people in it. The story is bookended by an urban planner arriving in the small village, essentially deciding whether it should be razed for a shopping complex, or allowed to survive.
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Yvonne
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was recommended this book after I communicated -- to the umpteenth person -- my then-fascination with Aime Cesaire. Having then just read of his passing, I realized that I had never read him closely when required to in college. I promptly purchased and reread "Discourse on Colonialism" which I interpreted as a surrealist manifesto constructing a 'black identity' in resistance to Western European colonialism and hegemony.

This novel takes place in Martinique, Cesaire's birthplace and home. It s
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Julia
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: francais
I had the fortunate experience of reading this sur place: I first opened the cover in Saint-Pierre, Martinique. In Texaco, Chamoiseau recounts episodes of construction and demolition that shaped modern, betonized Martinique. This book might be an essential to understanding the development of Creolism, or at least to the recent history of Madinina. It's unwieldy and long, but deserving of a second read and close attention.
Chiara Tomaselli
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in witnessing the birth of urban life where no one expected!
Lisa
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully rich and all consuming read. Chamoiseau's language is unique and unforgettable and though at times I couldn't follow his imagery, it didn't matter because the words, the prose was so lovely that I just enjoyed how he strung it all together. A great overview of the history of Martinique too - especially the plight of the black people who were struggling to maintain a grip on their land and their culture as changes in France so greatly affected their lives. Loved the main character, ...more
Jon Glazer
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm glad to see that most other reviewers enjoyed this book but unfortunately I didn't get much out of it. The narrative was quite dense and I often found myself reading sentence after sentence without having anything register with me. I know I missed some good stuff along the way, because every once in a while I came across some very arresting ideas and images. Sadly I missed all of the humor that others seem to have found.

I'm a reasonably attentive reader and I was certainly prepared to read t
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Janet
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The life of a slum in Port au Prince, Haiti--you come to see it the way the residents see it, not as a hellhole, but as home, a place of dream and possibility. Chamoiseau's main thrust is in the tension of language and its implications, between the spoken Creole of the people and written, official, colonial French. This guy will win the Nobel someday. You heard it here first.
The Final Chapter
Feb 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1992
Mid 1. Though the premise of fictionalising the history of Martinique through the travails of one family was admirable, the style of the author's prose served to thoroughly undermine reading pleasure.
Jesse
Sep 30, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me by Junot Diaz, who I met at Changing Hands. So far, so good. Thanks, Junot!
Tanya
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
memory and ecological degradation in the caribbean
Marc
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Story about a quarter in the capital city of Martinique (Antillians). The black slaves are freed and try to find their way into modern times. Interisting focus, but the reading was rather dull.
Alma Alma
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Deals less with plot and form and instead with emotion. This was so focused on the living as the story, a turn from the idea of a beginning, middle, end. In it were all three and all at once. But held together by resilient fighting for survival. Tracing back the origins of City and what that psycho geography means. What spaces hold and how their history can be honoured and if the language available can even hold it. I am learning so much in my reading and I wish I had studied this text. The narr ...more
Rita
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Like most whypipo, I knew very little about the history of Martinique. This author brings the history of this tiny island to life. Starting in the 1700s, when bekes (white) owned humans kidnapped, or born, into slavery, and forced them with overseer whips to work in their Fields, their houses, make babies with them, through the 1800s, when Abolition created a false freedom, to the fight for keeping their tiny hutches in their shantytowns, Chamoiseau shares the word of the Storyteller, who stood ...more
Ryan
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I honestly dip flopped a few times and almost gave it a 4 because the narrative structure is so difficult to read I truly did not always understand the plot. That being said, the language and metaphors were so many and so beautiful and so moving that they cannot be ignored, it’s poems within poems within poems, sometimes a single sentence is a poem. Also the historical context is perfect and well explained, I learned a lot while growing attached to the characters insofar as I understood the situ ...more
MJ Beaufrand
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love love love! I so enjoyed the loving lingering over details. The long sentences you have to slow down to read and scrutinize. Plus, my husband's family is from Martinique. I'd only heard the term "beke" once before in real life, which supposedly meant "white dude from Martinique." There were a lot of bekes in Texaco. I couldn't help wondering which character was based on my husband's grand-pere. Pretty sure one of them was.
Caroline
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the best thing I've ever read. A brilliant assertion of the legitimacy of the Martiniquan language and culture in its own right. The way Chamoiseau weaves French and Creole together is a way of claiming the language.
Thomas
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty neat prose and structure, and when was the last time you read a book from Martinique?
Dara Salley
This is the second novel I’ve read by an author from the Caribbean. The other novel was “The Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys, which is now one of my favorite books. This book had a slightly different point of view because Rhys was a white whereas Patrick Chamoiseau is black. The race distinctions are apparently very important in Martinique and both books spend a lot of time discussing their implications.

One of the things I loved about “The Wide Sargasso Sea” was the unusual language. The sentenc
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Dergrossest
Oct 01, 2012 rated it liked it
This book probably gets a 5-star rating if you are from Martinique. But I am not from Martinique. And even if I was from Martinique, I would probably only give this 5-stars if I was black. Not white or mulatto, but maybe if I thought I was part Carib. Or if I was white or mulatto and felt sorry for my people being such bastards to the blacks for the last 300 years.

This story of the black experience in Martinique, from the slave ships, to the sugar plantations, to the Rights of Man, to "freedom,
...more
Robert Daniel
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rocked my world. Opened me to the Word, to being a maroon in City, to finding a different time, rhythm, song. To seeing complex layers of distress and injustice and admiring the dignity and courage of those who struggle. To admiring the Creole Matadora. To wanting to find respite and inspiration in the Doum. The style, thematic depth and the breathtaking narrative arc of this complex, rich and inventive novel are well worth the effort of seeking to conquer. They will be challenging to anyone. Bu ...more
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Patrick Chamoiseau is a French author from Martinique known for his work in the créolité movement.

Chamoiseau was born on December 3, 1953 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, where he currently resides. After he studied law in Paris he returned to Martinique inspired by Édouard Glissant to take a close interest in Creole culture. Chamoiseau is the author of a historical work on the Antilles under the re
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