Slave Old Man

A Novel

From a Prix Goncourt–winning writer hailed by Milan Kundera as the “heir of Joyce and Kafka,” a gripping story of an escaped slave in Martinique and the killer hound that pursues him

“Chamoiseau’s characters are not only names but beings. Their conduct is drawn from the complexities of sensation rather than of action. We inhabit them naturally, their rages that roar like a rainstorm through a ravine, their sense of insult as sensitive as those weeds that close like shutters.” —Derek Walcott

From one of the most innovative and subversive novelists writing in French, a “writer of exceptional and original gifts” (The New York Times), whose Texaco won the Prix Goncourt and has been translated into fourteen languages, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man is a gripping, profoundly unsettling story of an elderly slave’s daring escape into the wild from a plantation in Martinique, with his master and a fearsome hound on his heels.

We follow them into a lush rain forest where nature is beyond all human control: sinister, yet entrancing and even exhilarating, because the old man’s flight to freedom will transform them all in truly astonishing—even otherworldly—ways, as the overwhelming physical presence of the forest reshapes reality and time itself. Chamoiseau’s exquisitely rendered new novel is an adventure for all time, one that fearlessly portrays the demonic cruelties of the slave trade and its human costs in vivid, sometimes hallucinatory prose. Offering a loving and mischievous tribute to the Creole culture of early nineteenth-century Martinique and brilliantly translated by Linda Coverdale, this novel takes us on a unique and moving journey into the heart of Caribbean history.

Praise

“A linguistic masterpiece. . . . If you want to read something fresh and different, this Martiniquan literary novel with its mishmash of languages, voices, and styles won’t disappoint.”
Ozy Media
Slave Old Man is a cloudburst of a novel, swift and compressed—but every page pulses, blood-warm. . . . The prose is so electrifyingly synesthetic that, on more than one occasion, I found myself stopping to rub my eyes in disbelief.”
—Parul Seghal, The New York Times
“Chamoiseau’s prose is astounding in its beauty . . . and he ups the stakes by making this novel a breathtaking thriller, as well.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Haunting, beautiful, and necessary.”
Buzzfeed
“A richly layered, obsessive, lyrical novel.”
The Brooklyn Rail
“Chamoiseau’s texts are linguistic interventions . . . at once literary feats and statements of cultural political protest. . . . [Slave Old Man] is poignant, timely, and radical. . . . Linda Coverdale does an impeccable, sensitive job.”
Asymptote
“Chamoiseau writes in a wild medley of French and Creole, sliding from dialect to classical expression like a freeform jazz musician. Linda Coverdale’s translation, the first in English, is gloriously unshackled. . . . This [is a] beautiful book by a writer who’s as original as any I’ve read all year.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“One can’t help but wonder why it took so long for this treasure to be translated into English. But it is here now, and the world Chamoiseau stitches together through the eyes of this aging runaway reveals the enduring cruelty of bondage and the endless creativity of its survivors and their descendants.”
Booklist (starred review)

News and Reviews

The New Press is pleased to share a Reading Group Guide for Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau.

Books by Patrick Chamoiseau

Creole Folktales

Patrick Chamoiseau