Vous voulez voir cette page en français ? Cliquez ici.

Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Tell the Publisher!
I'd like to read this book on Kindle

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

White Spirit [Paperback]

Paule Constant , Betsy Wing

List Price: CDN$ 22.95
Price: CDN$ 16.75 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
You Save: CDN$ 6.20 (27%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Usually ships within 3 to 5 weeks.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.ca. Gift-wrap available.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover CDN $46.00  
Paperback CDN $16.75  
Join Amazon Student in Canada

Book Description

April 1 2006 European Women Writers
After answering a classified ad placed by an import-export company looking for energetic young men willing to take on responsibilities for its African branches—no diploma required—Victor finds himself on The Will of God, a dilapidated boat heading into the heart of darkness as even Conrad couldn’t have imagined. With the piquant mixture of hilarity and painful disenchantment characterizing Paule Constant’s vision of the “colonial novel,” White Spirit follows three innocents—Victor; Lola, a mulatto prostitute; and Alexis, who does not know he’s a monkey—as they negotiate the perverse system of desires and hatreds on an African banana plantation.

Selling what no one wants or needs, Victor takes delivery of a barrel of mysterious powder promptly christened “white spirit” for its ability to bleach the black arms of the workers handling the shipment. To become whiter and worthier of love, Lola buys some—and then the rest vanishes. In this nightmarish Africa where colonized and colonizers have each other in a stranglehold, the "white spirit" unleashes an obsession that merges whiteness with a return to paradise—an obsession that can only end in catastrophe. Through it all, with her characteristic caustic language, fierce irony, and enormous tenderness for human frailty, Constant portrays the ridiculous without ridicule—and, miraculously, sparks a light of hope in the midst of the torment and suffering.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; 1 edition (April 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803264410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803264410
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Sad ironies illuminate this deftly mapped journey to the postcolonial heart of darkness, winner of the 1990 Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie Française. Signing on for employment with an import-export company, working-class Victor boards a rickety boat called The Will of God and sails from France to Port-Banane, an outpost in an unnamed, contemporary African country. Also on board is the banana plantation boss, who's bringing along a beautiful, light-skinned black French prostitute, Lola. She's reluctantly hired at the plantation's brothel, called Sunset Boulevard, by a one-eyed madam who transforms all her girls into Hollywood-style platinum blondes. Victor, who's infatuated with Lola, is put in charge of the banana plantation's local store, filled with cast-off goods no one buys. With hacked, peroxided hair, Lola still aspires to whiteness, so Victor sells her a corrosive powder—the "White Spirit" of the title—that bleaches her skin. The remainder of the powder ends up in the hands of a fanatical African religious leader, who puts the substance to horrific use. With prose both dark and rollicking, Constant (also Prix Goncourt winner for Trading Secrets) chronicles colonialism's terrible absurdities and reverberating effects on both Africans and Europeans. (Apr. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* French novelist Constant, a Prix Goncourt winner, presents a whip-smart postcolonial satire. Victor, a penniless and naive young Frenchman, lands a dubious position running a weirdly stocked store on a gigantic African banana plantation. Unnerved by his strangely misshapen employees and intimidating business rival, the enormous and unflappable Queen Mab, and too nervous to act on his infatuation with a high-strung young woman of mixed race intent on passing as white, he finds comfort with an orphaned chimpanzee. But everything is off-kilter in this banana republic, where the indentured black workers are regularly drenched with insecticide, the brothel features women imitating old Hollywood starlets, and a religious sect based on mere smatterings of scripture threatens to run amok. Starving and desperate, Victor believes he has found salvation in the form of a violently toxic white powder. Dubbed "white spirit," it bleaches black skin and is soon in feverish demand. Constant's mordantly funny novel is at once a brilliantly imagined and rambunctious inquiry into environmental havoc, our close ties to our primate cousins, adulterated religion, the mystique of whiteness, and the persistence of racism, and a piquant tale of survival and longing. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Sell a Digital Version of This Book in the Kindle Store

If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to a book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store. Learn more

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on Amazon.ca
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars White Fantasy Nov. 13 2006
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Betsy Wing translates well, though the book hardly ever sounds natural: perhaps that stiffness and mock-eloquence comes from the original? "Happy and reassured, the well-aimed messenger gave free rein to a joy that was just as spontaneous as his recent sorrow; his fifteen years did the rest: in his joy he raped a girl who had been granted the name of Mary. A crisis!" The balanced sentences, the mock heroics of the exclamation mark, the unusually ornate adjective (such as "well-aimed," hardly a word in English, is it?) all contribute to the cardboardy feel of WHITE SPIRIT. "Emmanuel" is said to mean "well-aimed" by the clergyman, Father Jean, and perhaps this is a satire on the clergy's support of colonial initiatives and ideology.

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't the idea of the "White Spirit," a powder with chemical effects so strong that they bleach a black native's skin white, and in consequence becomes in demand like tulips in Holland, isn't this idea on the face of it something that only a white person would dream up? The understory is that naturally everyone wants to be white and no one given a choice would want to be black. I suppose there's a long tradition in France of the white avant-garde setting its surrealist narratives in an enslaved Africa, from Raymond Roussel and Picasso on down, but by 1990 this conceit must have seemed pretty creaky, no? Truman Capote and Harold Arlen did the same thing as a musical back in the 1950s with HOUSE OF FLOWERS. WHITE SPIRIT's story itself is well told, with lots of room for Constant's own patented metaphors and similes (a true poet, everything is something else for La Constant--"Lola looked at the whores as enviously as a neglected child watching spoiled children who are so dreadfully used to happiness.") which I can never get enough of. English, I think, is implicated in Constant's search for meaning: even the title WHITE SPIRIT used to be WHITE SPIRIT in the original, as though it were chic to sport an English (or American) name.

Look for similar items by category