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6283: The Wound and the Dream (fwd)

From: radman <resist@best.com>

The Wound and the Dream


In Haiti, a militant, prophetic literature thrives alongside political 

by Patrick Erouart-Siad

There are memories of Haiti I'd like to keep forever. Alcibiade Pommayrac, 
nestled in the carefully kept tropical garden of the school in Jacmel, a 
charming town in the south. In one of the classrooms a banner hangs wishing 
"Welcome to Dany Laferrière," even though the Haitian writer, he prefers to 
call himself a "traveling" Haitian rather than a member of the Haitian 
diaspora, has already returned to Miami. Schoolchildren, laughing together 
as they tell a visitor about their unschooled parents: "The grownups have 
too many superstitions!" The road to Jacmel: a peasant riding a mule to 
market, pipe in his mouth, poultry slung over his mount, a picture of a 
gouverneur de la rosé, paysannes du petit matin right out of Jacques 
Roumain, the best known Haitian writer, whose books paint an idyllic 
picture of the Haitian countryside, its natural beauty, the simplicity of 
its peasantry.
But even if Roumain's literary prestige, and that of Haiti's other masters, 
survives, the times do not lend themselves to their militant, prophetic 
literature, which paints a beautiful picture of the mountainous countryside 
and its inhabitants and heralds bright tomorrows. The present reality in 
Haiti is disastrous, and that disaster covers the country in a veil of 
uncertainty. For three years, the Haitian government was paralyzed. In 
1990, Jean Bertrand Aristide, then a radical Roman Catholic priest, was 
democratically elected President. The following year he was forced into 
exile by the Haitian army. After three years of brutal military repression, 
North American occupying forces negotiated his return to power. Aristide, 
who gave up the priesthood this same year, 1994, later named his own 
successor, René Préval. ("Titid," as Aristide is known, remains a 
ubiquitous and unpredictable figure on the political scene. Everyone 
expected him to run in the presidential elections planned for November 
2000. But in Haiti, every plan, date, and deadline is provisional.)
Since the parliamentary elections of 1997, when the opposition party, the 
Organization of People in Struggle (Organisation du Peuple en Lutte) 
accused the governments of Aristide and Préval of fraud and began a 
filibuster, the governmental institutions of this country have been 
virtually shut down. No laws are passed, no budgets can be submitted. Some 
$500 million in loans have been frozen by the Interamerican Development 
Bank, the World Bank, and others. The financial infrastructure and legal 
system are at a halt. The middle and lower classes have reverted to a 
precarious black market economy; often it is only money returning from 
Haiti's many emigrants that keeps family budgets afloat. On the coasts of 
the island, smuggling, including massive transshipments of Colombian 
cocaine, compensates for the free-fall economy, even as it undermines that 
economy even further. The principal Haitian export is its people: with a 
population of 7.3 million, the Haitian diaspora was estimated in 1996 as 
1.5 million.
In the midst of this political collapse, social hemorrhage, and galloping 
anomie, the one source of fresh air and hope comes from a very surprising 
place indeed: art, and, in particular, literature. In Haiti, literature, 
painting, and "culture" in the largest sense, voodoo, proverbs, tales, oral 
traditions, weave a coherent fabric from a fractured society from the 
scraps of a failed polity and ragged remains of broken promises.
Why this creative abundance, no one really knows. Perhaps the explanation 
is to be found in ancient literary traditions: the epics of historical 
upheaval, occupation, independence, the transplantation of half a million 
African slaves by French colonists. Perhaps the origin is in the rich 
imagery and the oral traditions of voodoo. My guidebook, for example, gives 
a factual description of spot close by Cap-Haitien: "at about thirty meters 
to the right, the ruins of a colonial building shelter a pool where lives a 
ghost called Lovana, who takes the form of a fish. His faithful come to 
pray to him on Tuesday and Friday. There is a major festival that takes 
place here, the day before the pilgrimage to Sea of Lemonade in honor of 
Sainte Philomène."
Whatever its roots, Haiti's extraordinary literature provides an occasion 
for this sad country to transcend its own instability, and discern 
possibilities beyond its current disasters. To tread a razor's edge between 
poetry and disaster.
To come to Haiti in search of its literature is to fall in love with the 
place, even if, sometimes, this passion is followed by a great deal of pain.

I HAVE COME TO HAITI to give speech at an Alliance Française, invited as a 
French writer of Somalo- Djiboutien origin. My mother is from Djibouti, my 
father is French, I live in New York: my speech will evoke the nomadic 
discourse that, in a world swallowed whole by globalization, is mine.
Djibouti and Haiti are two little countries of more or less the same size.
Both are French-speaking. But whereas Djibouti is a desert inhabited by 
nomadic populations who are deeply rooted in Islamic countryside 
traditions, Haiti is an overcrowded island, populated by a peasantry that 
is profoundly inspired by Christian faith and voodoo rites.
The two represent cultural poles. Djibouti has few writers in the Western 
sense of the term, but numerous traditional poets. It is best known, in 
literary terms, for having hosted the saga of the French poet Arthur
Rimbaud, who had been attracted to Djibouti by the Secrets of the Red Sea, 
Henri de Monfreid's classic adventure book of the Indian Ocean and its 
Haiti, on the other hand, is a country of literatures, note the plural, 
both oral and published under the auspices of the biggest Parisian 
publishing houses. I had always admired Jacques Roumain and Jacques Stephen 
Alexis, the martyred writer, murdered by Papa Doc's sbires, as well as the 
incandescent Marie Chauvet. Djibouti to Haiti via New York is for me a 
voyage rich with literary myths.
Jérémie, my first stop, seems very far from Port au Princefar from the 
chaos and the interminable traffic jams of the capital.
A taxi driver had warned me: "Jérémie isn't really Haiti any more."
Seen from the airplane, it's love at first sight: "the crown of its bay 
stretching up the verdant moss of the hills. Along the golden curve of the 
beach houses in dentelles de bois; the masters' rooms of the rich 
shopkeepers turning their back to the sumptuous sea," as Lilas Desquiron 
describes Jérémie in her novel The Roads of Loco Miroir. But before that 
the Jeremian novelist had said, "She is there, horrible, infected, swollen 
with envy and with bile," to describe the sleeping beauty at the bottom of 
the hills. For me, fortunately, the local polemics are too deep to explore: 
I have only the time to enjoy this place at the end of the world, where the 
airport is decorated by a large and flattering flag just across from the 
entrance of the arrival hall:
"Welcome to the City of Poets."
A short time later, a few miles from the little airport, in a countryside 
that is empty apart from a few peasants on muleback, Jérémie exhibits its 
proper little open-air market, and then regales the visitor with hot 
croissants at Chez Patou, a French cafe and bakery not far from the 
recently repainted, majestic cathedral. The local clergy are prosperous.
Eric Parra, the French director of the local Alliance Française, a 
semi-private, semi-public institution supported by the French Foreign 
Ministry, is there to meet me. Together, we go to meet the Haitian 
President of the Local Alliance, Almaye Dorestan.
We find him sitting at one of the rickety tables at a cafeteria next to the 
Alliance Francaise on the rue Sténio- Vincent. What is he doing, this 
Saturday, at the end of the world and the end of the millennium? He is 
working on a notebook full of his short stories, with the ardent attention 
of an editor.
"Literature is my passion," he explains to me. "I'll submit these stories 
to Editions Mémoire ou Regain or other local publishers." And when this 
second job leaves him a little free time, Dorestan spends it "inventing 
Dorestan is representative of this generation of lettered Haitians who make 
their island and their culture a Caribbean paradox. Everywhere else in the 
world modern media, or at least newly introduced media, trump the printed 
word. Not here. Another writer born in Jérémie, Syto Cavé, reminds me anew 
of the paradox. "French educators have remarked on a growing disinterest on 
the part of the young of Martinique and Guadeloupe, whereas here the book 
remains a major window on the world, on life, on culture, on wisdom, on 
Dorestan confirms it. Haiti is the third largest producer of books in the 
French-speaking world, after France and Quebec. Counting books by diaspora 
authors, some three hundred to four hundred titles are published each year 
in all the genres, with a tendency toward poetry. In a country with such a 
high level of illiteracy, these numbers are astounding.
Jeremian poets faithfully attend their literary Saturdays at the Alliance. 
It's a club where the audience is quick to share what it calls its 
"cultural gateau." They climb up to the stage, recite poetry in a French 
filled with the particular literalness of Creole, a peasant language that 
is deeply rooted in the soil of their islands. They play guitar and sing 
the sentimental airs of Francis Cabrel or Bartoldi, then rejoin the 
audience. Nothing here speaks of Haiti's dangerous and violent reality, of 
the country's current political vacuum. They have an infinite confidence in 
literature, in culture. And yet Jérémie has no electricity or running water.
No taxis, either. In order to see the dramatic view of the Grand Anse River 
and its steel frame bridge, which is worthy of the nineteenth-century 
French engineers who built the Eiffel Tower and Grand Palais, we have to 
take a "moto-stop," a motorcycle taxi. Our drivers have no intention of 
wasting our time, and plunge down rocky trails at high speeds. As soon as 
the last little town, where a truck had fallen into the open sewer, passes, 
nature becomes generous, providential. The breadfruit and palm trees burst 
out on the banks of the Grande Anse, where washerwomen scrub laundry while 
their children play on bamboo rafts, then climb up the sides of the hills. 
 From the summit of the hills, the town and its surroundings are out of the 
famous primitive local paintings: a timeless tropical paradise.
Obviously, the paintings failed to capture some of the wounds of 
underdevelopment, among others, the typhoid fever that is endemic to the 
region of the Grande Anse. Nor do they portray the struggles of political 
enemies who, from time to time, enflame the poor neighborhoods near the 
road we've just traveled. With the narcotraffic has come a new form of 
violence, political in effect if not in intention, for it steadily destroys 
local social structures.
Can literature, here, really have something to say, given the economic 
ruin, the political destruction of the country? Something constructive, and 
not simply distracting?
The audience at the Jérémie Alliance Francaise responds with a resounding 
yes. Like his younger colleagues, the poet Syto Cavé, author of some 
fifteen plays in Creole and French, remains hopeful: "The time of the 
dictatorship destroyed everything. It left us needing to reestablish 
continuity with our own past, to cast a light on the present in view of all 
we have experienced.  We need to help the young to know their past, that 
which we need to preserve from it, say about it, in order to better go 
This is a familiar theme in Djibouti. There, too, the public demands of 
popular theater and fiction that they be a literature of memory, that they 
tap into the sources of local history.
"We are in the middle of a long transition toward democracy," continues 
Cavé, "but at the same time there is a reestablishment of memory taking 
place slowly, gradually."

FROM 1968 TO 1972, Cavé left the country. At that time, the Duvalier 
dynasty had cast its dictatorial cloud over the country. Although 
originally elected, Francois Duvalier, Papa Doc, declared himself president 
for life in 1964 and installed a sinister paramilitary, the Tontons 
Macoutes, to enforce his rule. Jean Claude Duvalier, Baby Doc, succeeded 
his father after his death in 1971 and ruled until he was forced into exile 
in France in 1986. In New York, Cavé and Hervé Denis founded a theater company.
"So, for us, the time of repression gave birth to a literary movement, 
Haiti Littéraire, but we were all forced to leave. Among the Jeremians, 
only René Philoctète stayed."
Syto Cavé paused, looking at the lush tropical gardens outside the windows.
"For those of us in New York, the problem we faced was what literary form 
to choose, how to escape from the old molds. For us, New York was a 
political and cultural intersection, as well as a meeting place with the 
massive Haitian community living there. The theater was a way to open 
peoples' eyes about what was going on in Haiti, but it was also for us a 
chance to come back to Haitian culture. We needed to find a new theatrical 
form, we needed to think about how to express a text in a new way, how to 
stage an actor differently. And so we took as our point of departure the 
cockfights, where people gather in a circle around the ring to watch, and 
to place their bets. This was also reminiscent, for us, of folktales told 
on an evening in a circle.
"So we decided to do a theater in the round, to return to Voodoo in a new 
way, avoiding any whiff of folklorism, concentrating rather on Voodoo's 
ritual aspect, its mixture of song and dance. This allowed us to find new 
directions, to engage a Haitian diction, to combine equally Creole and 
French onstage without letting either become ascendant, to create a theatre 
of the body. And it allowed us to avoid falling into old models, imitating 
our classical predecessors.
"This time in America enriched me enormously. In 1980 Hervé Denis returned. 
Two years later it was my turn to come back, and together we decided to 
pursue our theatrical ambitions. During our absence, despite the 
repression, the National Theater of François Latour continued to put on 
major pieces. Two of them had an enormous influence on the public: Boukiman 
Paradis, written by Franck Fouchier, a playwright residing in Canada who 
was inspired by the folk tales of Bouc and Malice, and Pèlin
Tèt, by Frankétienne. These two works, so different from the old patriotic 
plays, brought a new public to the theater."
Here in Jérémie, Syto Cavé's comments sound encouraging. But faced with the 
nearly complete halt of the state's machinery, most people seem to find 
refuge first in the traditional protection of the church, and only then in 
other means of expression.
The first day in Jérémie the processionals of young people seem to take up 
the entire village. The next day it is black-clad groups in Sunday dress, 
Protestants who wake me at dawn by softly chanting hymns on their way down 
the rue Bordes. The visitor can't help but notice, in the morning, the 
preponderance of churches. And yet the street in front of my hotel, made of 
smooth stones that ring musically under the hooves of mules, lends itself 
to a more pagan recollection. Each time I walk down its steep slope I find
myself before the turquoise waves of the sea, bathed in the ancient 
Caribbean wind that was so dear to the venerable Jacques Stephen Alexis, 
whose body has never been recovered.
"This is a country in search of itself," continues Cavé. "People are 
becoming more and more aware, and a more selective taste for literature, 
born of the dreams that were put down by the Duvaliers, is also developing. 
Obviously, there's a lot of mess, also, because habits die hard. But 
undeniably, you feel here a culture's steps forward. In the provincial 
villages there is a thirst for books that is only growing."
Leaving Jérémie, once again before the sign wishing "Welcome to the City of 
Poets," another author, Joseph-Marie St. Natus, asks my professional 
opinion of the title of his latest manuscript, which translates as The 
Enigma of the Village of the Golden Dawn. The title strikes me as a pretty 
homage to Jérémie, but beyond that I have no suggestions to offer. Perhaps 
I have understood something of the local situation, but, of course, 
everything eludes me in the question of commercialism. For, as Cavé says, 
"poetry is not for sale. It's for reciting. It's the high ground of 
language, its attic, where one tries to renew language, to find a voice, to 
break the hatis of a speech all ready to purchase ? and it is the place of 
your silence."
Some degree of confusion, it would seem, is the only possible response to 
the local situation.

THE PLANE FLIES OVER LES ABRICOTS, a lieu-dit dear to Jean Claude Fignolé, 
whom I had met once in Paris on the occasion of our respective novels' 
publication by the same publisher. Born in Jérémie in 1941, the same year 
as Syto Cavé, Fingolé studied law and agriculture, all the while writing 
major critical essays.
With René Philoctète and Frankétienne, he founded the important literary 
movement called Spiraliste and at the same time organized agricultural 
development projects with peasants from the Abricot region. In an essay, 
"Travel vows and literary intentions" (1978), Fingolé declared that "The 
first entrance to self consciousness is neither word, memory, or hope. It 
is ACTION." I found the quote in an issue of the well known French literary 
review, Notre Librarie: Haitien Literature from 1960 to Today. It's a good 
summation of this important author's pragmatism in successfully resisting 
the socioeconomic disasters not only by literary techniques, but also by 
agricultural ones.

Erosion, both of arable land and forests, is ravaging the mountainous 
island, whose Indian name, "Ayitie," means "the high Island." A little 
further the bay of Pestel is famous in Haiti for its Easter-time Festival 
of the Ocean.
But the colors of the Caribbean sea don't bring many foreign tourists to 
this part of Haiti, or any other. Political and economic instability 
discourages investment. Since my visit, political violence has escalated. 
The popular journalist Jean Dominique was murdered in front of his wife, 
and elections have brought more turmoil than peace. And while a Royal 
Caribbean cruise does put in at the enchanting Labadee beach in the north, 
close by Cap Haitien, the tour's brochure doesn't even mention Haiti.
The Tropical Airways flight flew over Petit-Goâve, where Danny Laferrière 
comes from, and begins its descent to Port au Prince, birthplace of so many 
authors and a breeding ground for Haitian literature in general.  And here 
I am met by the novelist Yanick Lahens.
Lahens is one of the more than a dozen Francophone Hatian women who have 
acquired literary reknown; others include Lilas Desquiron, Jan J. 
Dominique, Margaret Papillon, Kettly Mars, Evelyne Trouillot, and Yanick 
Jean. In the less common English-speaking diaspora, there is Edwidge 
Danticat, and among Spanish-speaking emigres, Micheline Dusseck. All have 
taken their cue from Marie Chauvet. Author of the novel Love, Anger, and 
Madness, Chauvet was the center of the "Haiti Littéraire" movement. This 
vitality of women's writing is a major phenomenon in Haitian literature.
"Literature is one of those rare places where, in the bosom of chaos, one 
can still feel safe," wrote Lahens in Notre Libraire. "The first remark one 
can make about these women novelists is that they have abandoned the 
globalizing constructions of Marxism and inigenisme in favor of the 
microcosms of family and private life. They go straight for the territory 
of childhood, and describe a literary space deeply marked by femininity, a 
space of the household and the family."
We talk while climbing at high speed in her car toward the heights of 
Pétionville, the residence of the privileged classes. Yanick Lahens has 
just published, with Editions mémoire, her short story collection, The 
Little Corruption, and taken her latest novel, In the Father's House, which 
was published in France by Le Serpent à Plumes, to the French book fair in 
Everything happens quickly with this writer at the center of it all. We 
speed toward the heights of Boule 10, on the mountain that leads to Kenscoff.
"In the heart of disaster, literature can function as an questioning of its 
own forms. It can dream, imagine, even play; indeed, it's the only space 
that's left for us to play in. Even if we're in a situation where there are 
few readers, few people who even can read, where political chaos is 
everywhere ? yes, certainly literature is a way out.
"We're in a period of enormous change, political and social. The young 
understand their Francophonic heritage, but they see themselves much more 
as American. This is a fact we can't ignore. The other change is that the 
Creole speakers are coming into their own. French is no longer mastered, 
English not yet, we're caught in between."
We arrived at a villa dominating the city. Here, the reality of 
Port-au-Prince"a vile town, ravished by hateful sewage and mess," as 
Frankétienne described it in Haiti Babel, Haitie Babel, Land of 
Schizophrenia, is little more than a memory, diluted in the healthy 
mountain air and the spectacle of nearly alpine tropical flora.
"Of course, American hegemony is undeniable, but we can't surrender 
ourselves bound hand and foot," Lahens tells me. "Art requires openness, 
but at the same time it needs the transmission of the most intimate 
cultural identity. We live in what has been until very recently a closed 
country, a society turned back on itself, which has provided it with a 
powerful cultural coherence. Today, many of our problems have their origins 
in our management of that change, that is, in this sudden opening toward 
the international. Haitian culture already had a somewhat contentious 
relationship with modernity. It's this contentiousness including the new 
forms of communication, that has to be managed today by politicians, 
economists, and writers."

THIS EVENING IN PORT AU PRINCE Frankétienne's mythical play, Pélin Tèt, is 
being reprised. The park around the theatre is filled with cars:
the new production of this classic play is once again a major event. The 
capital is rediscovering its poet-writer-singer-playwright, as subversive 
as ever, at 63 years oldthe great Frankétienne.
Max Dominiquea Catholic Priest, professor at L'Ecole Normale Supérieure, 
and director of Saint Martial College accounts for Frankétienne's immense 
importance in his recent book, "Critical Sketches":
Frankétienne's massive oeuvre remains key to Haiti. That it's possible to 
be irritated by his long flights of fantasy, immediately recognizable from 
one work to the other, is an immediate testament to the impact on the 
collective imagination of this man and his internal lacerations, this son 
of an American father and a peasant mother, born of a rape in the harsh 
landscapes of Artibonite, and brought up in the heart of a slum, Bel Air in 
Port-au-Prince. One can criticize his gigantisme or his indulgence in the 
obscene. But the defense will always come back to his first career as a 
bayakou, a toilet cleaner: this bayakou, in his writing, is trying to flush 
out the entire universe.
In the literary landscape of Haiti, Frankétienne is a kind of volcanic 
conscience in perpetual eruption. An earthquake. Each of his plays is 
received with passion. As Frankétienne himself explains in his essay on the 
Spiraliste literary movement he founded with Fingolé and Philoctère:
The Spiral embraces chaos, but remains open: open to live, to the future, 
to the infinite.... I've always been fascinated by the multidimensionality 
of humans. I was a professor of physics and mathematics. Before becoming 
interested in literature, I was a voracious reader of theoretical physics, 
notably Einstein.
I became aware of the importance of the phenomena of chaos in all aspects 
of life; that chaos was a constant, not an exception; that it was the 
glimpses of rationality that were in fact exceptional. It's this 
observation, and this discovery, reinforced by my scientific readings, that 
allowed me to follow the path toward this literary form of the spiral. At 
that time I also frequented a lot of voodoo ceremonies, which allowed me to 
reconnect with my origins, my family traditions, because my grandmother was 
a mambo, a voodoo Priestess, in St. Marc. My mother was also a mambo; she 
was often ridden by spirits in my presence. And at the same time as I began 
to learn about voodoo, I became interested in the major mystical texts, as 
well as discovering Taoism and Zen.
There are voodoo practitioners who claim to travel to the bottom of the sea 
or across galaxies and there to discover richer landscapes than those that 
I've seen in all the capitals of the world. I've traveled everywhere, 
because in Haiti we are systematically penned in. I felt a kind of bulimia, 
a hunger to possess everything that exists on the planet, to introject it, 
to gobble it up.
In Haiti, Frankétienne is a myth. As he says himself: "It's either garbage 
or transcendent: there is no objective appraisal of my work in Haiti. At 
least I don't leave anyone cold."
In France he is less famous than his friend Patrick Chamoiseau, who has won 
the Goncourt prize and become the spokesman of Creolization. But no living 
writer better incarnates the almost incredible vitality of the dialogue in 
contemporary literature between French and Creole than Frankétienne.
Frankétienne writes about an incident in which, in the street, he meets a 
woman whose face is glistening with sweat, sitting next to a little cart.
When she sees him she recites a line from Pèlin Tèt, then adds in Creole: 
"So, Frank, when are you giving us something else?"
"I found myself in my car, stupefied and filled with joy. Here is an 
illiterate peasant who recognizes me. It's the most wonderful thing that 
could possibly happen to me."
Faced with the economic, social, and political disaster of the island, 
under all the different dictatorships, in each historic period, his work 
has served at the same time as conscience, relief, and reflection. With its 
enormous freedom, its polyvalent richness, the way it indefatigably 
interrogates the universe with all the resources of his multiple culture, 
Frankétienne's work reaches every level of this society.
And writing about the revival of Pelin Tèt, Franz Lerebours in Nouvelliste, 
the oldest Haitian daily, concludes by thanking him in the form of an 
Thank you, Franck. May the voices you inspire continue to go forth and 
conjure up the evil spells and old demons of underdevelopment, that we can 
give birth to a more just society, a more honest, sincere, and prosperous one.
Lyonel Trouillot could be one of these new voices inspired by 
Frankétienne.  He writes tirelessly, always interrogating notions of 
reality. His newest book is out from Editions du Serpent a Plumes in Paris.
We meet at the Institut Français. He is a round man in his forties with an 
intense glance and an erudite language. A brilliant early evening light 
floods the room. Through the blinds, a white bird floats over the nearby 
mangrove.  I ask him whether books can change the reality of Haiti.
"Novels and poems are not going to feed the hungry ... nor is it with 
novels or poems that we're going to establish a fair political order that's 
not based on cheating, lying, corruption, and violence. But, on the other 
hand, I can say that literature is my contribution to the community: I feel 
profoundly responsible for this reality."
To this same question Frankétienne answers: "If literature gives no one 
anything to eat, it nonetheless allows one to learn to plant a field of 
wheat. Bread will come after."
Trouillot has no scientific answer to the question, but he chooses his 
words with precision. "Modestly, I would say that I give some weight to the 
little bit of writing in me, knowing that it doesn't amount to much. 
Literature is more than ever futile when it's blind, and I think that we 
Haitian writers, not all agree with me, are obliged to be clear-sighted. 
But we're threatened by the big international market that requires a sort 
of denationalization of literature, a sort of narcissism, a sort of 
inwardness. I'm afraid that we'll be struck with blindness, we Haitian 
writers. And so, I'd say that finding our eyes is the reality for me."
Is reading threatened, in Haiti, by the new media?
"I don't think so. Sadly, in Haiti there is still an exclusivity about 
reading ? reading is nearly a class privilege, and the social classes that 
enjoy this privilege are less and less interested in it. On the other hand, 
thanks to education, the less fortunate classes in Haiti are able to 
appropriate the book, and learning, as weapons. Many young people of modest 
origins are writing in Creole. This is a new phenomenon, and this finds its 
inspiration very much in the reality of Haiti. Elsewhere, those belonging 
to the same generation have quite a feeble aesthetic, have in some way 
experienced a loss of clarity, a loss of source, of identity, of origin, in 
fact, a total loss.
"When one lives in a country that is as torn up as ours, so filled with 
social contradictions, it's to be expected that literature will also be the 
place where these contradictions play themselves out. In fact, Haitian 
literature is alive precisely because it incarnates these contradictions. 
Personally, I place
myself in the tradition of René Philoctète. To me, he is the Haitian writer 
par excellence, resolutely modern, resolutely anchored in the reality of 
Haiti. Or, I follow Mahmoud Darwich, the Palestinian poet. Literature needs 
to be at the same time the wound and the dream.
"To guarantee the viability, the longevity of the Haitian literary 
heritage, we must make the French language more democratic, and we need to 
focus on Creole. Both. Creole should become a written language, one that 
can be slammed down on a table when one is abroad to say: Here is my language!"
In the American airplane that carries me back to the United States from 
Port au Prince, announcements are made in Creolea realization of Lyonel 
Trouillot's hopes for his language.

THE LAST STAGE of my journey took me to the coasts of Jacmel, a little town 
between sea and mountain that resounds still with the absence of the two 
great writers it gave to the diaspora, René Depestre and Jean 
Métellus.  The first, since his retirement to France, finds the primary 
material of his work is a dream of a lost time, a nostalgia for the Jacmel 
of his childhood. It would not survive a confrontation with the present 
Jean Metellus, meanwhile, is a neurologist in France. His first book, 
Evening in Jacmel, evoked decadence by chronicling the history of his 
country as a tale of dereliction and decline.
In the airplane above Florida, I turn to the last chapter of Danny 
Laferrière's Country without a Hat. Laferrière describes himself as a 
"primitive writer," fated to be exiled; he now lives in Miami after many 
years in Montreal.
Laferrière had been in Jacmel before me, and his words provide a perfect 
This man lived next to me. I spent whole days with him. He didn't know how 
to read or write. He knew only how to paint.  Majestic countrysides. 
Enormous fruits. A fecund nature.  Straight-backed women, solemn and 
ceremonial, descending from the hills carrying enormous baskets of fruit on 
their heads. He painted also animals from the equatorial 
jungle.  Everything was always green, abundant, joyous. And his canvases 
never had the time even to dry: rich folk, learned folk, bought them right 
One day, a New York Times reporter came.
"Baptiste," he asked, "why are you always painting these pictures of green, 
rich countrysides, these trees crumpling under the weight of their ripe 
fruit, these smiling people, when all around you there is misery and 
After a moment of silence, Baptiste answered: "I paint what I dream of."
"And the real Haiti?"
"For the real Haiti, Monsieur, I don't have to dream."
(translated by Neil Gordon)
Patrick Erouart-Siad is a French writer in New York. He is the author of 
three travel books and three novels.