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— Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

Review: The Parley Tree, ed. Patrick Williamson

Few books have had as great an impact on the course of my literary translation career as The Parley Tree: Poets from French-Speaking Africa & the Arab World, edited and translated by Patrick Williamson. This wonderful anthology introduced me to French-language poets from such diverse countries as Djibouti, Morocco, Chad, and Congo-Brazaville-some of whom I have now translated. It was also here that I met Khal Torabully, from Mauritius, an award-winning poet, essayist, film director, and semiologist who has made it his life's work to give voice to the hundreds of thousands of indentured workers forced to endure horrendous conditions between the years 1849 - 1923. Indentured workers were brought from China and India to the immigration depot in Port Louis where some either stayed in Mauritius as a cheap source of labor after slavery was abolished or were sent overseas to the colonies to work the sugar cane fields. Many died on terrible sea voyages where they were kept in close quarters with one another in the ship's cargo hold. Others died or endured harsh conditions in the colonies, where they were thrown in jail for the slightest offense, and then were forced into longer periods of indenture. Torabully has coined the term "coolitude" from the previously pejorative term "coolie" in a way that resembles Aimé Césaire's coining the term "negritude." Torabully argues that indentured workers, through their rich intercultural exchanges, developed a new identity and language greater than the sum of their parts-a strong and resilient identity worthy of dignity and pride.