Pineau, Gisele 1956-

views updated

Pineau, Gisele 1956-


Born 1956, in Paris, France; Education: Attended University of Nanterre, France; obtained nursing degree.


Home—Paris, France, and Guadeloupe, West Indies.


Writer and psychiatric nurse.


Prix Carbet de la Caraibe and Grand prix des lectrices d'Elle, 1994, for La Grande Drive des Esprits; Prix RFO, 1996, for L'espérancemacadam; Prix Terre de France, 1996, and Prix Rotary, 1997, for L'exil Selon Julia; Prix Amerigo Vespucci, 1998, for L'âme Prêtée Aux Oiseaux; Prix des femmes journalists, 1998, for Femmes des Antilles: Traces Et Voix: Cent Cinquante Ans Après L'abolition De L'esclavage; Prix des Hémisphères Chantal Lapicque, 2002, for Chair Piment.



La Grande Drive Des Esprits: Roman, Serpent à plumes (Paris, France), 1993, translation by Michael Dash published as The Drifting of Spirits, Quartet (London, England), 2000.

L'espérance-macadam: Roman, Stock (Paris, France), 1995, translation by C. Dickson published as Macadam Dreams, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2003.

L'exil Selon Julia: Récit, Stock (Paris, France), 1996, translation by C. Dickson published as Exile according to Julia, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 2003.

L'âme Prêtée Aux Oiseaux: Roman, Stock (Paris, France), 1998.

Chair Piment: Roman, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2002, translation by C. Dickson published as Devil's Dance, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2006.

Fleur De Barbarie: Roman, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2005.

Mes Quatre Femmes: Récit, P. Rey (Paris, France), 2007.


Un papillon dans la cité, Sépia (Saint Maur, France), 1996.

Le cyclone Marilyn, Hurtubise/L'Elan vert (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1998.

Caraibes sur scène, Dapper (Paris, France), 1999.

C'est la Règle, Editions Thierry Magnier (Paris, France), 2002.


(With Marie Abraham) Femmes Des Antilles: Traces Et Voix: Cent Cinquante Ans Après L'abolition De L'esclavage, Stock (Paris, France), 1998.


Gisele Pineau is a leading figure in the Creolite literary movement, founded by writers of Caribbean ancestry who identify themselves as Creole. Born in Paris to parents from Guadeloupe, Pineau was often the only child of color in her French neighborhood or school, and grew up feeling the anxieties of identity that are typical of immigrants, particularly those who had lived under colonial rule. Themes of dislocation and the longing for a true home are common in her work, which focuses in particular on the experiences of women in postcolonial societies.

Pineau's first book, La Grande Drive Des Esprits: Roman, translated as The Drifting of Spirits, won significant acclaim in France. It tells the story of four generations of a Guadeloupan family, and the ancestral spirits that interfere in their lives. After his father defies the spirits, Leonce is born with a club foot and a caul over his head—marks that indicate his supernatural power to talk with the dead. His children, too, are targeted by the gods. Though his daughter's friend, a photographer, dismisses the family's obsession with spirits as old-fashioned superstition, she comes to see that her rational approach to the world lacks the ability to deal with the vivid reality that Leonce conjures with his stories. Anderson Tepper, reviewing the book in the New York Times, noted that it contains the typical elements of Creolite fiction, including the presence of spirits and the use of speech patterns particular to the island. The book, in Tepper's opinion, "breaks little fresh gound" and is, in the end, "an uneasy blend of earthiness and airiness." A writer for Publishers Weekly described the novel as "richly textured," and praised its "opulent imagery and lush description" as well as its ribald humor.

Femmes Des Antilles: Traces Et Voix: Cent Cinquante Ans Après L'abolition De L'esclavage, which Pineau wrote with Marie Abraham, is an account of the experiences of the female slaves who were brought by the French to the Antilles from Africa. Dayna Oscherwitz, reviewing the book in World Literature Today, described it as "a complex, hybrid work which transgresses traditional generic boundaries, as well as the perceived boundaries between history and fiction." Oscherwitz went on to note that Pineau's "representation of both actual and imagined women on equal terms points out the degree to which the experience of black women has been ignored by history, since a reader of her text has no historical basis upon which to distinguish between what is fiction and what is fact." As a result, in Oscherwitz's view, Femmes Des Antilles is a "thoroughly complex and fascinating work."

In an interview posted on the French Book News Web site, Pineau discussed the autobiographical elements in her work, particularly Mes Quatre Femmes: Récit. The book, she declared, "is about the four women who have made me who I am." The book, classified as fiction, recounts the lives of Pineau's ancestor, the slave Angelique; her kinswoman, Julia; her aunt, Gisele; and her mother, Daisy. "This book tells my intimate family history," she explained, "but it also tells the story of West Indians…. My story belongs to everyone, it is a shared history which each person, whether here or there, can relate to. Behind each one of these women lies an integral part of Guadeloupe's history, France's history, mankind's history, with its wars, its need to conquer, dominate and possess, its need to enslave and its barbarism…. I come from this history. And, today, I no longer need to prove that I belong to one country or another. I am no longer searching for an identity."



Booklist, May 1, 1994, review of La Grande Drive Des Esprits: Roman, p. 1588; September 1, 2003, Whitney Scott, review of Macadam Dreams, p. 60.

Choice, September 1, 2004, A.J. Guillaume, review of Exile according to Julia, p. 106.

French Review, February 1, 1996, Patricia-Pia Celerier, review of La Grande Drive Des Esprits, p. 526; December 1, 1998, Arlette M. Smith, review of L'exil Selon Julia: Récit, p. 369; May 1, 2000, Thomas C. Spear, review of L'âme Prêtée Aux Oiseaux: Roman, p. 1263; March 1, 2001, Doris Y. Kadish, review of Femmes Des Antilles: Traces Et Voix, Cent Cinquante Ans Apres L'abolition De L'esclavage, p. 830; May 1, 2003, Bonnie Thomas, review of "Gender Identity on the Move: Gisele Pineau's La Grande Drive Des Esprits," p. 1088; May 1, 2003, "Entretien Avec Gisele Pineau," p. 1090, review of La Grande Drive Des Esprits, p. 1128, and review of Femmes Des Antilles, p. 1232; May 1, 2004, "Guadeloupean Women Remember Slavery," p. 1082.

French Studies, April 1, 2006, "Migration and Melancholia: From Kristeva's ‘Depression Nationale’ to Pincau's ‘Maladie De L'exil’," p. 232.

New York Times Book Review, February 11, 2001, Anderson Tepper, review of The Drifting of Spirits.

Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2000, review of The Drifting of Spirits, p. 54.

Research in African Literatures, spring, 2005, "Horizons Adrift Women in Exile, at Home, and Abroad in Gisele Pineau's Works."

World Literature Today, September 22, 1997, Adele King, review of L'exil Selon Julia, p. 848; September 22, 1999, review of L'âme Prêtée AuxOiseaux, p. 794; January 1, 2000, review of Femmes Des Antilles, p. 222; June 22, 2001, "Gisele Pineau: Writing the Dimensions of Migration," p. 8.


French Book News, (February, 2007), interview with Gisele Pineau.

VG: Voices from the Gaps, (June 26, 2007), "Gisele Pineau."