At 86, Guadeloupe-born Maryse Condé is the oldest author ever to be longlisted for the International Booker Prize. She says The Gospel According to the New World will be her last book, though it’s my first time reading her. I did wonder whether I was missing out somewhat in terms of not knowing about the themes and concerns across her work that led to this point, but I enjoyed my time with this book nonetheless.
Condé’s protagonist is Pascal, who is born in Martinique to a woman named Maya. Burdened by dreams that say her son will change the world, Maya abandons him at Easter, leaving him at the home of a couple who own a nursery (for plants) called the Garden of Eden.
Pascal’s life is then a parody of the gospels. He heads off in search of his origins , with rumours following him that he might be a new son of God. There are disciples, not-so-miraculous miracles, even a strange figure who might be an angel.
With everything he sees going on, Pascal begins to wonder: if he is to be a messiah, what is he “expected to do with this world streaked with bomb attacks and scarred with violence?” Then again, maybe the mantle of saviour doesn’t suit him anyway. Pascal’s story is told in a storyteller’s voice, the translation capturing that sense of truth in imagination.
Published by World Editions.
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