In this intoxicating tale of love and madness, mothers and daughters, folkloric wisdom and the grim legacy of slavery on the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe, aged yet unbowed Telumee tells her life story, along with that of the proud line of Lougandor women she continues to draw strength from, even in their physical absence. Having obtained, with dizzying speed, love and happiness and the trust of others, Telumee must find the resources, personal and collective, both to rejoice without reserve and then, in less fortunate seasons, to survive suffering that would crush weaker vessels. In the words of “Queen Without a Name,” the stoic and tender grandmother who raises her, “Behind one pain there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.”
A masterpiece of Caribbean literature, The Bridge of Beyond represents at once a gorgeously thick description of the flora and climate, crafts and customs of the island, and the triumph of a spirit so generous and hopeful that no earthly adversity could outlast it. Simone Schwarz-Bart’s sinuous and lyrical prose, interwoven with proverbs and other local sayings, appears here in an uncommonly good translation by Barbara Bray.
It is like a fable in the form of a ballad, which is to say it is poetical but not always clear. Its languorous sense of ease, dangerously close to delusion, gives scope to Simone Schwarz-Bart’s considerable gift for describing the trees and flowers of her native island.
—Paul Theroux, The New York Times
In a literary field saturated with messianic heroes, be they poetic or proletarian, The Bridge of Beyond plunges us into a fabulous story of women, the chronicle of a mythical line of matrons: the Lougandors. Yet something would be lacking if we saw it merely as, for example, a rewriting of [Jacques Roumain’s] Masters of the Dew, where a family of women are playing their version of Manuel. In comparison with these pre-texts, Simone Schwarz-Bart innovates. She innovates by metamorphosing the Creole oral tradition.
Her stories seem to gleam with the polish of re-telling and are a distillation of passion and experience in which every trace of whimsicality and affectation have been squeezed out by the knowledge of real suffering. The virtues are, of course, not [the character] Toussine’s but the author’s, but so natural is this that it is easy to forget that it is a work of fiction; it is a very fine achievement.
—The Irish Times
The book’s gift of life is so generous, and its imagery so scintillant … that we believe every word.
—John Updike, The New Yorker
There’s magic, madness, glory, tenderness, above all abundant hope.
The language … is as luxuriant as the foliage of the Antilles.
—The Times (London)