This essay examines the roles played by ethnographic writing and translation in Raphaël Confiant's 1994 L'allée des soupirs. This novel fictionalizes the 1959 riots in Martinique while simultaneously creating characters who debate the relative merits of modes of expression capable of capturing the linguistic, cultural, and racial hybridity of créolité in literature.
Confiant translates into fictional terms important precepts on Caribbean literary production set out in Eloge de la créolité, which Confiant wrote with Patrick Chamoiseau and Jean Bernabé. By transforming the aesthetic problems taken up in Eloge into a thoroughly creolized novel that deals with the hybridized messiness of everyday life, Confiant presents a text that ethnographically allegorizes its own conditions of production. This allegorization mobilizes a process the essay calls “interdisciplinary translation,” which relies on an ongoing process of conversion between ethnographic and literary modes of representation.