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Paul Marchand, F.M.C. (Princeton Legacy Library)

Chesnutt, Charles W.

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ISBN 10: 0691602298 / ISBN 13: 9780691602295
Published by Princeton University Press, 2014
Used Condition: Very Good
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Paul Marchand, F.M.C. (Princeton Legacy ...

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Publication Date: 2014

Book Condition:Very Good

About this title

Synopsis:

Evoking the atmosphere of early-nineteenth-century New Orleans and the deadly aftermath of the San Domingo slave revolution, this historical novel begins as its protagonist puzzles over the seemingly prophetic dream of an aged black praline seller in the famous Place d'Armes. Paul Marchand, a free man of color living in New Orleans in the 1820s, is despised by white society for being a quadroon, yet he is a proud, wealthy, well-educated man. In this city where great wealth and great poverty exist side by side, the richest Creole in town lies dying. The family of the aged Pierre Beaurepas eagerly, indeed greedily, awaits disposition of his wealth. As the bombshell of Beaurepas's will explodes, an old woman's dream takes on new meaning, and Marchand is drawn ever more closely into contact with a violently racist family. Bringing to life the entwined racial cultures of New Orleans society, Charles Chesnutt not only writes an exciting tale of adventure and mystery but also makes a provocative comment on the nature of racial identity, self-worth, and family loyalty.

Although he was the first African-American writer of fiction to gain acceptance by America's white literary establishment, Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) has been eclipsed in popularity by other writers who later rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. Recently, this pathbreaking American writer has been receiving an increasing amount of attention. Two of his novels, Paul Marchand, F.M.C. (completed in 1921) and The Quarry (completed in 1928), were considered too incendiary to be published during Chesnutt's lifetime. Their publication now provides us not only the opportunity to read these two books previously missing from Chesnutt's oeuvre but also the chance to appreciate better the intellectual progress of this literary pioneer. Chesnutt was the author of many other works, including The Conjure Woman & Other Conjure Tales, The House Behind the Cedars, The Marrow Tradition, and Mandy Oxendine. Princeton University Press recently published To Be an Author: Letters of Charles W. Chesnutt, 1889-1905 (edited by Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., and Robert C. Leitz, III).

Originally published in 1999.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Review:

Charles Chestnutt's 1921 novel begins with a startling premise: expatriate Paul Marchand, a "Free Man of Color," returns to New Orleans only to discover that he is now officially white. Thanks to a will, he has become the head of a rich, powerful--and racist-- Creole family. To claim his birthright, however, he must renounce his mixed-race wife and children, as well as all the principles of his upbringing. Novelist Chestnutt was the most popular and critically acclaimed African-American writer of his day. By the time he wrote Paul Marchand, F.M.C., however, he had fallen from favor, and publishers universally rejected the novel. Its publication marks a recent resurgence of interest in his writing, and it's clear to see why; if Chestnutt's purple prose and melodramatic plot twists sometimes seem dated, his ideas do not. With its dramatic schism between nature and nurture, Marchand's dilemma poses some peculiarly modern questions about the meaning of race. Like many current theorists, Chestnutt saw race as a social construct rather than as an irreversible biological fact, perhaps because of his own background. He was himself light-skinned enough to pass for white, and knowing that he decided not to do so gives this fascinating novel added resonance.

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