The French Caribbean author Joseph Zobel (1915-2006) is best-known for his childhood memoir La Rue Cases-Nègres which was published in 1950 in the original French, and translated into English as Black Shack Alley by Keith Q. Warner in 1979. Zobel’s clear and accessible prose has brought the French Caribbean to life for many generations of readers across the world:
The book was adapted into the prize-winning film Rue Cases-Nègres by Euzhan Palcy in 1983 (English title: Sugar Cane Alley), and it remains the only film adaptation of a Martinican text to date. The film is available in numerous languages and has played a vital role in raising global awareness of the French Caribbean by bringing iconic characters, sights and sounds to cinema and TV screens.
Yet despite his status as a canonical French Caribbean author, little is known about Zobel’s wider publications and international career. He published novels, short story collections and poetry, and lived in the Caribbean, Africa and France, where he interacted with the leading thinkers of the Negritude movement. He became a radio broadcaster in Africa, released a record of poetry, and in his later life, became fascinated by Japanese art.
This blog aims to raise awareness of Zobel’s work by bringing him to new audiences in the UK and internationally. It is part of a wider academic research project into the life and work of Joseph Zobel, funded between 2014-2016 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom. The project is just one of the cultural initiatives launched under the “Translating Cultures” Research Theme, which has its own blog by Professor Charles Forsdick: http://translating.hypotheses.org/
Please enjoy using this blog to learn about Zobel and the French Caribbean, and feel free to leave feedback via the page “Questions and Comments” – this will help shape the blog’s development!