Death of American writer Toni Morrison at the age of 88
Only Afro-American author to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature, Toni Morrison, descendant of a family of slaves who died Monday at the age of 88, gave a black literary visibility.
With just eleven novels, including Beloved (Pulitzer Prize 1988), Home (2012) and Delivrances (2015), the majestic writer for salt and pepper dreadlocks was also the first Black woman to obtain a chair at Princeton University. sanctuary long reserved for white men.
When the Nobel Prize was awarded in 1993, the Swedish Academy welcomed in the work of this New Yorker of adoption “a powerful imagination, a poetic expressiveness and the living picture of an essential face of American reality”.
She is a brilliant scholar, and is the author of several essays such as Playing in the Dark where she dissects the role of the slave in the construction, by contrast, of the American white identity. She notes that in American fiction, blacks have long served as a foil to highlight the white hero.
Moved by joy
Child of the Great Depression, Chloé Anthony Wofford (surname of the white planter who owned her slave grandparents) was born on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, near Cleveland, North Ohio, into a working family of four children.
Brought up by a father who hated whites and a cheerful and caring homemaker, Toni Morrison grew up in a poor, multicultural environment. She claims to have never really been aware of segregation until she left in 1949 for Howard University, nicknamed the “Black Harvard” in Washington.
With a great deal of self-confidence, she continues her studies at Cornell University and presents a thesis on suicide at William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. She became a professor of literature in Texas before returning to Washington.
In 1958, she married Harold Morrison, a student of architecture of Jamaican origin, but left in 1964 and moved with their two sons 3 years and 3 months in New York.
While America is struggling for civil rights, she becomes an editor at Random House and advocates for the black cause by publishing the biographies of Mohammed Ali and Angela Davis.
His anthology of black writers “The Black Book” (1974), several times reissued, encourages a generation of writers to make their voices heard.
Driven by “joy and not disappointment” and endowed with a strength of character and a foolproof humor, Toni Morrison publishes, at 39, the most blue eye : a first book at the antipodes militant stories “Black Power” then in vogue, but also social advocacy and exotic descriptions.
She tells the story of a black teenager, one of her classmates, who dreams of the beauty of blue-eyed dolls and who will fall into madness after being put pregnant by her adoptive father. She sells only 700.
“I had nothing but my imagination, a terrible sense of irony and a trembling respect for words,” says this great Catholic.
Recognition arrives in 1977 with Solomon’s Song and world triumph in 1985 with Beloved . The tragic story of an old slave who kills her daughter to prevent him from being enslaved earns him the Pulitzer. In 2006, the New York Times dedicated it as “the best novel of the last 25 years”.
Accustomed to press forums, she launched in 1998 that Bill Clinton, then full scandal Lewinsky, is the “first black president” American. “He was treated like a black man in the street, already guilty, already criminal,” said the convinced democrat a few years later. Fervent supporter of Barack Obama, she published in the New Yorker, the day after the election of Donald Trump, an article entitled In mourning the whiteness.
If she first writes “for the blacks”, her mixed, “jazzed”, folkloric writing, wants, in a second time, to go beyond the “obsession with color” to touch the reader in what he has to say. universal.
“I’d like to write about blacks without having to say they’re black. Exactly as whites write about whites, “she liked to repeat in her grave voice, interspersed with laughter.