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Black Shack Alley [a novel]

Joseph Zobel, translated and with an introduction by Keith Q. Warner, with a preface by Christian Filostrat
ISBN: 978-0-91447-867-6
ISBN: 978-0-91447-868-3
1980/184 pages/LC: 78-13852


This work of compelling lyrical unity tells the story of growing up black in the colonial world of Martinique.

Not only does the young hero, José, have to fight the ignorance and poverty of plantation life, but he must also learn to survive the all-pervasive French cultural saturation—to remain true to himself, proud of his race and his family. His ally in this struggle is his grandmother, M’man Tine, who fights her own weariness to release at least one child from the plantation village, a dirt street lined with the shacks of sugarcane workers.

First published in 1950, La rue cases-nègres was inspired by Richard Wright’s Black Boy. “Everything in it is autobiographical,” wrote Zobel, “but the story was patterned after my own aesthetics of composition.” The movie adaptation, honored at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, has been released in the US as Sugar Cane Alley.


Joseph Zobel, born in 1915 in Petit-Bourg, Martinique, has published many collections of stories and a volume of verse, Incantation pour un retour au pays natal. His novel La fète à Paris is the continuation of La rue cases-nègres. Keith Q. Warner, professor of French and Caribbean studies at George Mason University, is a native of Trinidad. He is author of Kaiso: The Trinidad Calypso and editor of Critical Perspectives on Léon Gontran Damas.