"Hearn is a passionate observer and a passionate sensualist...to the 20th century reader he provides an unparalleled evocation of a way of life, as well as a city (St. Pierre), that has long since disappeared."
—Times Literary Supplement
In October 1887 the writer and translator Lafcadio Hearn sailed from New York to Martinique, where he fell under the spell of the island and its people. Intending to stay only a few months, he remained there for two years, immersed in Martinique’s vibrant culture and tropical beauty. The result was one of the most detailed and poetic accounts of day-to-day life in the Caribbean ever written.Hearn, who was later to win fame for his ground-breaking books about Japan, viewed French-ruled Martinique as an exotic fusion of European, African and Asian influences, the Creole society par excellence . Describing the island’s landscape, its flora and fauna, its colonial architecture and rural villages, he provides an invaluable picture of a Caribbean colony where slavery was a recent memory and race an all-important matter of identity. First published in 1890, Two Years in the French West Indies also offers the most complete evocation of the doomed city of Saint Pierre, “Paris of the Antilles”, devastated twelve years later in one of the world’s worst volcanic eruptions.Hearn’s greatest achievement, however, is his sympathetic insight into the daily lives of ordinary Martinicans: market women, peasant farmers, plantation workers. Exploring their folk tales, music and the Creole language, he portrays a world of sensuality and mystery, in which traditional storytelling conjures up a darker dimension of sorcery, ghosts and zombies.
Born in Greece to a Greek mother and Anglo-Irish father, LAFCADIO HEARN (1850-1904) was brought up in Dublin, where he suffered a number of childhood tragedies. Moving to the United States in 1869, he worked as a journalist and translator, before settling in Japan in 1890. There he married, became a Japanese citizen and wrote the influential Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894) and Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation (1904).
Lost & Found: Classic Travel Writing
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384 pages, line drawings, B&W photos