by Giulio Meotti
This is a novel Timothée de Fombelle had the idea to write thirty years ago. He was thirteen when his parents took him to Ghana. “We got there on the tracks and there, on the coast, we could see where the Dutch, the French and the British kept the slaves over two centuries ago before sending them to America or the Caribbean. The vegetation had invaded the place, but there were still the rings hanging on the wall and images that I will never forget … “.
Thus was born the idea of”Alma”, released in France by Gallimard. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world have read De Fombelle’s books. De Fombelle wrote some of the most beautiful works of French children’s literature.
The first volume of a three-volume saga, “Alma” tells the story of an African girl during the period of slavery and evokes her struggle for abolition. But French success will not be repeated in English. Unlike all his previous works, this one by de Fombelle will not be published in England or the United States. He may be an excellent writer, but de Fombelle is white and as such he cannot deal with the subject of slavery.
“From Walker Books, my English publisher who has a branch in the United States, I was warned from the beginning,” said the writer to Le Point.
“A fascinating but too delicate topic, I was told: when one is white, therefore on the side of those who exploited blacks, one cannot take possession of the history of slavery. They liked the book, but for the first time they won’t publish it”.
In “Alma”, the heroine’s name, de Fombelle takes the reader aboard the ship “Douce Amélie” in 1786, which transports hundreds of slaves to France. The ideological “crime” of which the writer is now accused emerged in the 1980s and is called “cultural appropriation” – that is when the “dominant” culture takes elements from a minority or “dominated” culture.
“That a white man can tell the story of the slave trade from the point of view of slaves, even if this story is obviously not his own, is for me the very definition of literature,” said de Fombelle, defending the very basis of literature. But so it goes now.
Now the statue of Victor Schoelcher in front of the old Palais de Justice in Fort-de-France in Martinique is thrown to the ground and shattered to pieces. Why? Because the atheist dandy with a humanitarian vocation who abolished slavery in France, is, for the new anti-racists, actually a crypto racist. And it doesn’t matter that the poet of negritude, Aimé Césaire, celebrated him with the words: “Against the propensity for tyranny, there is an antidote: the spirit of Victor Schoelcher”.
Today a white man cannot even write a story about slaves, let alone free them. He can only kneel and keep silent.
Western culture has contracted mad cow disease. I am still wondering what happened to it. And how it happened.The new demographic power of minorities? The self-laceration of humanities? The construction of a new ideological consensus?
Many questions. Many worries that the West is in such a decadent situation that it will never be able to return, never be able to recover.