Last week, the winner of the Oscar for Best Film was ‘12 Years a Slave’, the terrible true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who was captured and sold as a slave in the USA.
Slavery was just as present on our island, then called Bourbon. Published four years after the abolition of slavery in 1848, ‘Les Marrons’ was considered Reunion Island’s first novel. Its two main themes were slaveryand mixed marriages, which at the time made the book ‘a danger for the established order.’
The story follows a slave called Le Câpre, who escapes his master and flees into the mountains. Starving and hunted down by his pursuers, Le Câpre approaches the edge of a precipice, threatened by dogs. But as he battles with them, he is forced further back, and suddenly disappears into the void..!
But he grabs onto a liana and takes refuge in a cave cut into the cliff-face. There he meets Marie, a young white woman accompanied by a black man called Frême and their mulatto child.
Accompanied by Frême, Le Câpre continues his journey towards the Salazes. Alas! The bounty-hunters have caught them up. Following a terrible battle, Frême is left for dead. Le Câpre is brought back to his master’s estate.
Locked up in a darkened cell, Le Câpre dreams of his wounded friend Frême, Marie and their child. The future of Bourbon Island appears to him in a vision.
“It will become a rich and fertile country, a land where there will be no difference in people’s colour or conditions, who will all be free; a place where, far from seeking to make war, to enslave and destroy each other, they will be content to live together, and happy to be equals, to love each other, to form unions and to help one another.”
At the end of the story, Le Câpre escapes and is reunited with Frême. Together they call upon a crowd of slaves to rise up and revolt…
slavery – esclavage
novel – roman
to flee – fuir
starving – affamé
hunted down – chassé
threatened – menacé
void – vide
bounty hunter – chasseur de primes
locked up – enfermé
wounded – blessé
to rise up – se revolter