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Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?

Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?

A Fantastical Tale

Translated by: Richard Philcox
  • reading group guide
On one hand, beautiful Celanire -- a woman mutilated at birth and left for dead -- appears today to be a saint; she is a tireless worker who has turned numerous neglected institutions into vibrant schools for motherless children. But she is also a woman apprehended by demons, as death and misfortune seem to follow in her wake. Traveling from Guadeloupe to West Africa to Peru, the mysterious, seductive, and disarming Celanire is driven to uncover the truth of her past at any cost and avenge the crimes committed against her.
With her characteristic blend of magical realism and fantasy, and inspired by a true story, Maryse Conde hauntingly imagines Celanire in an unforgettable novel -- a most dazzling addition to the deeply prolific and widely celebrated author's brilliant body of work.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743482615 | 
  • August 2005
List Price $16.95
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Read an Excerpt

Ivory Coast

1901-1906

Chapter 1

This was not the first time the Reverend Father Huchard, a long-standing member of the African Missionary Society in Lyons, had landed on these shores. He was an old-timer and had already spread the word of God among the natives of Dahomey as well as those in the Lower Congo. So it was of no surprise to him that the land was so flat, the forest beyond so impenetrable, that the rain over his head never let up and the sun up there, way up there, was so hazy. His eye was fixed on one of his flock of six: an oblate who answered to the name of Celanire. Celanire Pinceau. A most unusual name!... see more

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?

1. Who Slashed Celanire's Throat? opens with the Reverend Father Hutchard gazing at Celanire while giving us a brief introduction into her character. How does this initial introduction of our heroine differ from the character we've come to know in the end? Describe the development of Celanire's character.
2. We are told in chapter 4 (pg. 45) about Hakim's hatred of the French ("...and anti-French dreams") which seems to be a sentiment held by many members of the community. For Hakim and those who share his views, what do the French represent?
3. Celanire's arrival at Adjame-Santey coincided with the beginnings of an influx of French influence over African tradition. Discuss the role of Imperialism in the novel. What kind of an impact did all of the changes brought about by imperialism have on the quality of life of the natives? How much of a role did Celanire play in the introduction of these changes and how much of it revolved around her? How much did she stand to benefit from them? In this vein discuss the differences and similarities between Celanire and Thomas De Brabant's first wife, Charlotte. How much of their differences are based on their cultural upbringing?
4. While resisting Celanire's advances in chapter 6 (pg. 60) Hakim ponders about Betti Bouah, "Didn't he realize that once the Africans had hoisted themselves up level with the whites, they would prove to be even mo see more

About the Author

Maryse Conde
Photo Credit:

Maryse Conde

Maryse Condé is the award-winning author of twelve novels, including Crossing the Mangrove, Segu, Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?, and I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem. She lives in New York and Montebello, Guadeloupe.

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