Gisèle Pineau (2018)
Gisèle Pineau, 2018 (Photo: Librairie Mollat via WIkimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Gisèle Pineau has lived a life marked by travel and continuous displacement, and these themes unsurprisingly lie at the core of her creative writing. She was born in 1956 in Paris to Guadeloupean parents. As a child, she spent brief periods in mainland France, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Republic of the Congo, and Senegal, following her father who was an officer in the French Army. She returned to Paris to train to become a psychiatric nurse, and then moved to Guadeloupe where she practised the profession for twenty years. In 2000, Pineau moved back to Paris. She has since returned to the Caribbean, and she now lives on the island of Marie-Galante. 

Pineau began her writing career in 1988, after winning a prize to publish three short stories in a collection aimed at celebrating the work of budding Caribbean writers. The short stories ‘Paroles de terre en larmes’, ‘Léna’, and ‘Ombres créoles’ address themes such as alienation, mental illness, loneliness, and the female condition. She was no doubt inspired to write about these issues by her parallel career as a psychiatric nurse. Indeed, much later in her career, she published Folie, aller simple (2010), an autobiographical narrative in which she explores her role caring for her patients in Paris, a task she carries out with patience and humility.

Another important theme in her work is the cyclical nature of trauma and violence. Her texts examine how the dehumanization of enslavement, captivity, and forced displacement in the Caribbean has caused an enduring and overwhelming experience of trauma for Caribbean peoples. Novels such as L’Espérance-macadam (1995), Chair piment (2002), and Morne Câpresse (2008) depict personal trauma, sexual abuse, patriarchal oppression, and environmental injustice as the damaging legacy of the French colonial project. Her most recent novel, La Vie privée d’oubli (2024), tells of the experiences of two young Guadeloupean women who, unable to find work on the island, travel to Paris as drugs mules. This novel shows that the Caribbean islands continue to be under-resourced, exploited, and locked in a (neo)colonial relationship with mainland France.

Furthermore, Pineau is interested in shining a light on significant historical figures and episodes which have been marginalized in the French national narrative. She endeavours to draw attention to these blind spots, creating a more diverse and inclusive understanding of what it has meant to be French throughout history. For example, in 2020 she published Ady, soleil noir. This text is a creative reimagining of Adrienne Fidelin, a Guadeloupean dancer living in Paris in the 1930s and little-known muse, model, and lover of American photographer Man Ray. 

In at least four of her narratives – ‘Paroles de terre en larmes’, La Grande drive des esprits (1993), L’Exil selon Julia (1996), and Mes quatre femmes (2007) – she writes about la Dissidence. During the Vichy era, when France was occupied by the Nazis, Martinicans and Guadeloupeans crossed the Caribbean Sea in dangerous conditions to reach the British island of Saint Lucia, after which they travelled to the United States to join the Resistance movement and fight in France and North Africa. The Caribbean contribution to World War Two is little known, and Pineau seeks to write into history the sacrifices made by Martinican and Guadeloupean men and women. This endeavour is all the more personal for Pineau. As she explains in her autofictional work L’Exil selon Julia, her own father was a Dissident.

Like this text, much of Pineau’s writing has personal resonances, and she has written several autobiographical narratives. L’Exil selon Julia, arguably her most well-known work to date, blurs fiction with reality. Pineau distances herself from the narrative through the use of an unnamed narrator and through the title which refers to her grandmother. Through these narrative devices we learn a lot about Pineau’s own childhood of exile and the racism she experienced in France. Mes quatre femmes is a follow-up to this text. She documents the lives of her ancestor Angélique, her grandmother Julia, her aunt (and namesake) Gisèle, and her mother Daisy, shedding light on the complex relationships within her family. Other autobiographical narratives include Folie, aller simple, written about her experiences as a psychiatric nurse, and Un papillon dans la cité (1992), a text aimed at young children.

As the latter shows, Pineau has written for a range of audiences and engaged with different genres. To date, she has written seven books for young readers, works which are often inspired by her own experiences of growing up between French and Creole cultures. She has also engaged with non-fictional genres. For instance, in 1998, she co-wrote (with journalist Marie Abraham) Femmes des Antilles: traces et voix cent cinquante ans après l'abolition de l'esclavage. This text combines historical accounts of the experiences of enslaved women in the Caribbean with contemporary reflections by their descendants on the horrors of slavery.

Pineau has been awarded several accolades for her writing, including the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde for La Grande Drive des esprits in 1994, the Prix Terre de France in 1996 for L’Exil selon Julia, and the Prix du roman historique in 2021 for Ady, soleil noir. In addition, she was named ‘Chevalier’ of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2018, in recognition of her contribution to French literature. Pineau’s work has been translated into English, Spanish, Japanese, and other languages by highly respected academics and translators, which is further testimony to her ability to speak to different communities and nationalities. 

Pineau is a prolific and engaging writer, and one of the most well-respected on the French Caribbean literary scene. Her work tackles the histories and realities of French Caribbean life, but it also deals with universal themes such as femininity, sexuality, trauma, migration, and discrimination, engaging a wide readership beyond the French Caribbean. Her writing is sensitive and cathartic but also provocative, urging readers to question their own identity and position in society.

Compiled by Antonia Wimbush (Melbourne)


Prose: Novels, Short Stories, Autobiographical Narratives

‘Léna’ in Paroles de terre en larmes: nouvelles ed. by Centre d’action culturelle de la Guadeloupe (Paris; Montéran/ Guadeloupe: Éditions Hatier, 1988, pp. 111-28)

‘Ombres créoles’ in Paroles de terre en larmes: nouvelles ed. by Centre d’action culturelle de la Guadeloupe (Paris; Montéran/Guadeloupe: Éditions Hatier, 1988, pp. 95-110)

‘Paroles de terre en larmes’ in Paroles de terre en larmes: nouvelles ed. by Centre d’action culturelle de la Guadeloupe (Paris; Montéran/Guadeloupe: Éditions Hatier, 1988, pp. 5-20)

‘Une antique malédiction’ (Le Serpent à plumes, 15, 1992, pp. 37-52)

La Grande drive des esprits (Paris: Le Serpent à plumes, 1993)

‘Aimée de Bois-Vanille’ (Le Serpent à plumes, 28, 1994)

‘Tourment d’amour’ in Écrire la parole de nuit: la nouvelle littérature antillaise: nouvelles, poèmes et réflexions poétiques ed. by Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and René Depestre (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1994)

L’Espérance-macadam (Paris: Éditions Stock, 1995) 

‘Piéça dévorée et pourrie’ in Noir des Îles [collection] (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1995, pp. 159-203)

L’Exil selon Julia (Paris: Éditions Stock, 1996)

L'Âme prêtée aux oiseaux (Paris: Éditions Stock, 1998)

‘Amélie et les anolis’ in Nouvelles des Amériques ed. by Maryse Condé and Lise Gauvin (Montréal: L’Hexagone, 1998, pp. 25-40)

‘Les Enchaînés’ (Tropiques, revue négro-africaine de littérature et de philosophie,  61, pp. 1998)

‘Le Ventre de Léocadie’ (L’Express, October 1998)

‘Les Papillons noirs’ in Une enfance outremer ed. by Leïla Sebbar (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2001, pp. 157-68)

Chair piment (Paris: Mercure de France, 2002)

‘Fichues racines’ in Paradis brisé: nouvelles des Caraïbes (Paris: Editions Hoëbeke, 2004, pp. 199-218)

Fleur de barbarie (Paris: Gallimard Éducation, 2007)

Mes quatre femmes (Paris: Philippe Rey, 2007)

Morne Câpresse (Paris: Mercure de France, 2008)

‘Ta mission, Marny’ in Nouvelles de Guadeloupe (Paris: Magellan & Cie, 2009, pp. 11-30)

Folie, aller simple: Journée ordinaire d'une infirmière (Paris: Philippe Rey, 2010)

Cent vies et des poussières (Paris: Mercure de France, 2012)

Les Voyages de Merry Sisal (Paris: Mercure de France, 2015)

‘Un petit feu sans conséquence’ in Volcaniques, une anthologie du plaisir ed. by Léonora Miano (Montréal: Mémoire d’encrier, 2015, pp. 45-62)

Le Parfum des sirènes (Paris: Mercure de France, 2018)

Ady, soleil noir (Paris: Philippe Rey, 2021)

La Couleur de l’agonie (Lamentin: Caraïbéditions, 2021)

La Vie privée de l’oubli (Paris: Philippe Rey, 2024)

Children’s Fiction

Un papillon dans la cité (Paris: Cépia, 1992)

Le Cyclone Marilyn (Montréal: Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 1998)

Caraïbes sur Seine (Paris: Éditions Dapper, 1999)

C’est la règle (Paris: Thierry Magnier, 2002)

Case mensonge (Paris: Bayard Jeunesse, 2004)

Les Colères du volcan (Paris: Éditions Dapper, 2004)

L’Odyssée d’Alizée (Lamentin: Caraïbéditions, 2010) 


[with Jean-Marc Lecerf] Guadeloupe découverte (Paris/Fort-de-France: Fabre Doumergue, 1997)

[with Marie Abraham] Femmes des Antilles: traces et voix: cent cinquante ans après l'abolition de l'esclavage (Paris: Éditions Stock, 1998)

Guadeloupe d’antan: la Guadeloupe au début du siècle (Paris: HC Éditions, 2004)


‘Écrire en tant que Noire’ in Penser la créolité ed. by Madeleine Cottenet-Hage and Maryse Condé (Paris: Karthala, 1995,  pp. 289-95)

‘Le sens de mon écriture’ (LittéRéalité, 10.1, 1998, pp. 135-36)

‘L’Identité, la créolité et la francité’ in La culture français vue d’ici et d’ailleurs ed. by Thomas C. Spear (Paris: Karthala, 2002, pp. 217-24)

Translations into Foreign Languages


The Drifting of Spirits [Translation of La Grande Drive des esprits by J. Michael Dash] (London: Quartet Books, 1999)

Exile According to Julia [Translation of L’Exil selon Julia by Betty Wilson] (Charlottesville, VA/London: University of Virginia Press, 2003)

Macadam Dreams [Translation of L’Espérance-macadam by C. Dickson] (Lincoln, NE/London: University of Nebraska Press, 2003)

Devil’s Dance [Translation of Chair piment by C. Dickson] (Lincoln, NE/London: University of Nebraska Press, 2006)

A Taste of Eternity: A Novel [Translation of L'Âme prêtée aux oiseaux by C. Dickson] (Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2014)


Boum Make, Jennifer: ‘From Modern France to the Caribbean and Back Again: Testing the Survival Chances of Cultural Transfers in Exile According to Julia by Gisèle Pineau’ (The Lincoln Humanities Journal, 5, 2017,  pp. 132-149)

Casteel, Sarah Phillips: ‘New World Pastoral’ (Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 5.1, 2003, pp. 12-28)

Cornell, Lisa and Delphine Gras [eds.]: Reimagining Resistance in Gisèle Pineau's Works, (Lanham, MD/New York: Lexington Books, 2023)

Durmelay, Sylvie: ‘Récit d’un “Retour au pays pas natal”: Jardins et migrations dans L’Exil selon Julia de Gisèle Pineau’ (Journal of Caribbean Literatures, 4.2, 2006, pp. 166-174)

Edwards, Natalie, and Christopher Hogarth: ‘Flawed Border Crossings in Life Writing by Fabienne Kanor and Gisèle Pineau’ (a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 36.3, 2021, pp. 543-558)

Francis, Gladys F.: ‘Guadeloupe’s Ka-ribbean Bodies in Conflict: Gerty Dambury and Gisèle Pineau’ in Critical Perspectives in Caribbean Societies of the Late 20th and Early 21st Century ed. by Patricia Donatien and Rodolphe Solbiac (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015, pp. 65-82)

Fulton, Dawn: ‘The Disengaged Immigrant: Mapping the Francophone Caribbean Metropolis’ (French Forum, 32.1-2, Winter/Spring 2007, pp. 245-262)

Githire, Njeri: ‘Horizons Adrift: Women in Exile, at Home, and Abroad in Gisèle Pineau's Works’ (Research in African Literatures, 36.1, 2005, pp. 74-90)

—: ‘Writing back to Hugo: Intertextuality in the works of Raphaël Confiant and Gisèle Pineau’ (International Journal of Francophone Studies, 25.1-2, 2022, pp. 9-35)

Goldman, Josephine: ‘Fragmenting, Repeating, Rebuilding: The Chaotic Cyclones of Gisèle Pineau's L'Espérance-macadam’ (Australian Journal of French Studies, 58.3, 2021, pp. 290-303)

Haigh, Sam: ‘Migration and Melancholia: From Kristeva’s “Dépression nationale” to Pineau’s “Maladie de l’exil”’ (French Studies, 60.2, April 2006, pp. 232-250)

Hardwick, Louise: Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013)

Hellerstein, Nina: ‘Violence, mythe et destin dans l’univers antillais de Gisèle Pineau’ (LittéRéalité, 10.1, 1998, pp. 47-58) 

Jurney, Florence Ramond: ‘Transgresser I‘insularité: Inscriptions de I'espace antillais dans Chair Piment de Gisele Pineau’ (LittéRéalité, 16.1, 2004, pp. 31-43)

—: ‘Les Dérives multiples des Voyages de Merry Sisal de Gisèle Pineau’ (Nouvelles études francophones, 35.1, 2020, pp. 202-215)

Kalisa, Chantal: ‘Space, Violence, and Knowledge in Gisèle Pineau’s L’Espérance-Macadam’ in Discursive Geographies/Géographies discursives: Writing Space and Place in French/L’Écriture de l’espace et du lieu en français ed. by  Jeanne Garane (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2005, pp. 103-117)

Kearney, Beth, and Bonnie Thomas: ‘Uncovering Adrienne Fidelin: Disorderly Subjectivity in Gisèle Pineau's Ady, soleil noir (2021)’ (Francosphères, 11.2, 2022, pp. 227-245)

Larrier, Renée: ‘A Site of Memory: Revisiting (in) Gisèle Pineau’s Mes quatre femmes’ in Chronotropics: Caribbean Women Writing Spacetime ed. by Odile Ferly and Tegan Zimmerman (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023, pp. 83-100)

—: Autofiction and Advocacy in the Francophone Caribbean (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2006)

Licops, Dominique: ‘Reading and Danger: The Emerging Writer in Maryse Condé’s and Gisèle Pineau’s Autofiction’ (Women in French Studies, 4, 2012, pp. 248-264)

Loichot, Valérie: ‘Éloge de la barbarie selon Gisèle Pineau’ (International Journal of Francophone  Studies, 11.1-2, 2008, pp. 137-149)

Loth, Laura: ‘Gisèle Pineau’s Poetics of Disaster: Trauma and Disability in Folie, aller simple’ (Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, 15, 2021, pp. 55-72)

Maisier, Véronique: ‘The Sounds of Silence in Gisele Pineau’s L’Espérance Macadam’ in Francophone Cultures and Geographies of Identities ed. by H. Adlai Murdoch and Zsuzsanna Fagyal (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, pp. 247-259)

Maisier, Véronique: ‘Roman policier et écocritique dans Le parfum des sirènes de Gisèle Pineau’ (The French Review, 96.1, 2022, pp. 143-158)

Mehta, Brinda J.: ‘Culinary Diasporas: Identity and the Language of Food in Gisèle Pineau’s Un papillon dans la cité and L’Exil selon Julia’ (International Journal of Francophone Studies, 8.1, 2005, pp. 23-51)

Milne, Lorna: ‘Sex, Violence, and Cultural Identity in the Work of Gisele Pineau’ in Postcolonial Violence, Culture, and Identity in Francophone Africa and the Caribbean ed. by Lorna Milne (Berne: Peter Lang, 2007, pp. 191-212)

—: ‘Working, Writing and the Antillean Postcolony: Patrick Chamoiseau and Gisèle Pineau’ (Paragraph, 37.2, 2014, pp. 205-220)

Murdoch, H. Adlai: ‘Negotiating the Metropole: Patterns of Exile and Cultural Survival in Gisèle Pineau and Suzanne Dracius-Pinalie’ in Immigrant Narratives in Contemporary France ed. by Susan Ireland and Patrice J. Proulx (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001, pp. 129-140)

—: Creolizing the Metropole: Migrant Caribbean Identities in Literature and Film (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012)

Ndiaye, Christiane: ‘Le Détour de l’humour chez Gisèle Pineau’ in L’Humour et le rire dans les littératures francophones des Amériques ed. by Jozéf Kwaterko (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006, pp. 29-40)

Obidiegwu, Vincent Nnaemaka: ‘De l’Exil à la désillusion dans Un Papillon dans la cité, L’Exil selon Julia et Chair Piment de Gisèle Pineau’ (Neohelicon, 47, 2019, pp. 331-347)

Ormerod, Beverley: ‘Displacement and Self-Disclosure in Some Works by Gisèle Pineau’ in Ici-Là: Place and Displacement in Caribbean Writing in French ed. by Mary Gallagher (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2003, pp. 211-226)

—: ‘The Parent-Child Relationship in Gisèle Pineau’s Work’ in The Francophone Caribbean Today: Literature, Language, Culture ed. by Gertrud Aub-Buscher and Beverley Ormerod (Barbados/Jamaica/Trinidad and Tobago: The University of the West Indies Press, 2003, pp. 137-150)

Popkin, Debra: ‘“Growing Up With Julia”: Gisèle Pineau and her Grandmother, a Caribbean Girl’s Journey to Self-Discovery’ in Francophone Women Coming of Age: Memoires of Childhood and Adolescence from France, Africa, Quebec and the Caribbean ed. by Debra Popkin (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007, pp. 34-50)

Sadoun, Djoher: L’Ambivalence de la sacralisation de l’enfance dans l’écriture de Gisèle Pineau, Malika Mokeddem, and Ken Bugul (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2021)

Sherratt-Bado, Dawn Miranda: ‘Cycles and Cyclones: Structural and Cultural Displacement in Gisèle Pineau’s Macadam Dreams’ in Tracking the Literature of Tropical Weather: Typhoons, Hurricanes, and Cyclones ed. by Anne Collett, Russell McDougall, and Sue Thomas (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 199-225)

Simek, Nicole: Hunger and Irony in the French Caribbean: Literature, Theory, and Public Life (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Sturgis O’Coyne, Laurel: ‘Toward Weaving/Reading Hemispheric Land and Literature’ (Comparative Literature Studies, 60.2, 2023, pp. 374-396)

Suarez, Lucia M.: ‘Gisele Pineau: Writing the Dimensions of Migration’ (World Literature Today, 75.3, 2001, pp. 8-21)

Thomas, Bonnie: ‘Utopia and Dystopia in Gisele Pineau’s L’Exil selon Julia and Fleur de Barbarie’ in Nowhere Is Perfect: French and Francophone Utopias/Dystopias ed. by John West-Sooby (Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 2008, pp. 180-192)

—: ‘Transgenerational trauma in Gisèle Pineau's Chair Piment and Mes Quatre Femmes’ (International Journal of Francophone Studies, 13.1, 2010, pp. 23-38)

—: ‘Memory and Relation in Mes quatre femmes’ (French Review, 86.2, 2012, pp. 136-146)

—: Connecting Histories: Francophone Caribbean Writers Interrogating their Past (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2017) 

Wimbush, Antonia: ‘La Dissidence in Gisèle Pineau's Œuvre’ (Journal of Romance Studies, 20.1, 2020, pp. 159-178)

—: Autofiction: A Female Francophone Aesthetic of Exile (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2021)

—: ‘Madness, Isolation and the Female Condition in Gisèle Pineau's Writing’ (Australian Journal of French Studies, 59.2, 2022, pp. 158-170)

Interviews/in the Media

Interviews in Journals

Cazenave, Odile, Tanelli Boni, and Nathalie Philippe: ‘“L’Exil au féminin”: entretien avec Gisèle Pineau’ (Présence francophone, 70, 2008, pp. 23-26)

Jurney, Florence Ramond: ‘Entretien avec Gisèle Pineau: réflexions sur une œuvre ancrée dans une société mondialisée’ (Nouvelles études francophones, 27.2, 2013, pp. 107-120) 

Loichot, Valérie: ‘“Devoured by Writing”: An Interview with Gisèle Pineau’ (Callaloo, 30.1, 2007, pp. 328-337)

Makward, Christiane: ‘Entretien avec Gisèle Pineau’ (The French Review, 76.6, 2003, pp. 1202-1215)

Makward, Christiane, and Njeri Githire: ‘Causerie à Penn State (avril 2001)' (Women in French Studies, 9, 2001, pp. 220-233)

Mangerson, Polly T.: ‘Que peut la littérature pour changer le monde? Entretien avec Gisèle Pineau’ (The French Review, 93.1, 2019, pp. 168-176)

Veldwachter, Nadège: ‘An Interview with Gisèle Pineau’ (Research in African Literatures, 35.1, 2004, pp. 180-186)

Videos and Podcasts

Jacques, Paula :‘Tout compte fait: Gisèle Pineau’ (France Inter, 18 August 2012). Available online at 

Roederer, Dominique: ‘Francosphère: Gisèle Pineau’ (La 1ère, 21 September 2018).  Available online at 

Saint-Éloi, Rodney: ‘Noires Amériques: Gisèle Pineau’ (CFAmériques, 2 February 2022). Available online at 

Spear, Thomas: ‘5 Questions pour Gisèle Pineau’ (Île-en-île, 11 June 2009). Available at