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IN BRIEF

Fiction

March 19, 1995|DICK RORABACK

CREOLE FOLKTALES by Patrick Chamoiseau. (New Press: $16.95; 112 pp.) Whom up a batch of pure delight. Simmer. Chop finely into words. On the side, blend equal parts of whimsy, wit and wisdom. Mix. Garnish like crazy. Spike with an indecent amount of Caribbean hot sauce. Serve. Stand back. This is Chamoiseau's personal recipe, and if there's a tastier dish in all of folklore, please let us know. Chamoiseau, one of the last and surely one of the grandest of the old-fashioned storytellers, is a native of Martinique, island colony of the French for far too long. His tales are recalled from childhood, passed along from a time when life was harsh, pleasures were few and imagination, gaudy, delicious and malign, was just about the only escape from the alleged masters. In the stories, colonists always get their comeuppance, outsmarted by a cheeky urchin or a crone with a colorful curse. Intros are disarming--"I saw this tale go by my hut in the small hours of a sunny night"--and Chamoiseau's language a marvel of unexpected connections and casual exuberance: "She walked the way the wind dances through the sweetgrass." Not a word goes astray in what have been called "stories of survival," but also, more aptly, "fairytales with an attitude."

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