Courageous and empowering, the Lougandor women written about in Simone Schwarz-Bart’s novel The Bridge of Beyond, are an inspiration of strength in the face of adversity. The book chronicles the matriarchal lineage from grandmother to granddaughter showcasing that there is so much power in the depths of these women and behind the words in the book. The energy of the women to forge ahead, no matter what the cost or circumstance, is a perception on life that we can all learn from.
Each of the Lougandor women lead deeply meaningful lives, even in their day-to-day activities. They keep themselves upright, yet know how and when to sway in the wind. Their spines are resilient, strong, and flexible. Even more importantly, they all have a deep love of life that they enjoy in their quiet strengths. The power of the human (and female) spirit lives deep within the text, through the struggles and hardships, as well as the celebrations and uplifting moments. Their lives are meaningful in that they make the ultimate best the only way they know how: through perseverance and steady fortitude.
Reading this novel, you can almost feel the spirit moving inside the bodies of the Lougandor women. It’s as if they come alive off the page, with the blood in their veins pulsing to a rhythm of sweat, tears, and joy. They never give up, even when all signs point south. They silently observe the life that swirls about them, allowing for the good to shine through the bad. Even when faced with abominable forces, they believe in spiritual retribution, like when Queen Without a Name said to Telumee about her husband, Elie, “I don’t need to curse him, woman. He’s taking care of it himself.” This observation is reminiscent of an animal waiting in the bushes, waiting for the right time to strike.
Other spiritual values that are evident surround the beauty in nature and life in general. Telumee’s smile and infectious laugh is referenced many times throughout the book, as a source of both wonder and hope. Even when good luck is discussed, it becomes personified. Luck is seen in the “airy dancers’ steps,” in a handful of coco plums or peas, and in the fragrance of a coconut palm. The exploration of generation and tradition is rich and pervasive in the community of Fond-Zombi.
Some passages in this novel leave a deep impact, reminding us that we’re not just reading a fictional story, but one interwoven with historical attributes and very real emotions. In reference to slavery, Telumee says, “For the first time in my life I realized that slavery was not some foreign country.” This simple sentence carries all the weight and pain of the world in it. We can see how we are all intertwined with the history of slavery and there’s no turning our backs on the fact that many countries were founded on it. Readers become connected to Telumee and can begin to imagine what this made her feel like and how this fact shaped her life and her outlook. She names Fond-Zombi as a place where slavery was embedded, in the richness of the surrounding nature and in the very air she was breathing.
Although Telumee never came to any conclusions about what the history of slavery in Fond-Zombi meant for her and her ancestors, it’s evident she carried on the residual strength of it in the way she held herself. While her husband beat her, she remained steadfast, loyal, and quiet. She allowed him to displace his anger onto her while she soaked up all of his pain and hatred. The same resilience was seen in her that many slaves had in order to continue on every day, finding the light and hope in the dark shadows. There is deep meaning and spirit found in Telumee’s actions and in her missing actions; in her words and in the words she chose not to say. The Lougandor women represented community and communal strength throughout the novel and reading such captivating prose will have your attention turned towards the characters, even in the midst of their hardship.
Simone Schwarz-Bart is a French novelist and playwright of Gouadeloupean origin. In 1967, together with her husband, André Schwarz-Bart, she wrote Un plat de porc aux bananas vertes, a historical novel exploring the parallels in the exiles of Caribbeans and Jews. In 1972, they published La Mulâtresse Solitude. In 1989, they wrote a six-volume encyclopedia Hommage à la femme noire (In Praise of Black Women), to honor the black heroines who were missing in the official historiography. In 1972, Schwarz-Bart wrote Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle, which is considered one of the masterpieces of Caribbean literature. In 1979, she published Ti jean l’horizon. Schwarz-Bart, along with her husband, is deeply committed to political issues, and the issues faced by people, especially women, of color. She has explored the languages and locations of her ancestry in her works, and examines male domination over women in the Caribbean, as well as themes of alienation in exile.