René Depestre, Atlantic Nomad

A Haitian writer’s many exiles and returns.

October 10, 2019 12-1PM EST

Meet René Depestre. In this first gathering, Professors Kaiama L. Glover and Laurent Dubois will lead a tour through Depestre’s singular biography – his wanderings back and forth across the Atlantic and beyond – as a first way in to an understanding of the novel through the twinned lenses of literature and history. We’ll provide an introduction to the structure of the book, present the cast of characters, and lay out a few useful key terms and concepts, taking Hadriana‘s first chapter as an opportunity to get acquainted with Depestre’s unique style. 

Reading: Movement 1, Chapter 1 “Balthazar and the Seven Loins of Madame Villaret-Joyeuse”

Questions for Meeting 1:

  • Tell us who you are and/or what you know about René Depestre’s biography and reputation as a writer.  What are you curious to learn more about?
  • From the beginning, Hadriana is a book constituted of layers upon layers of story-telling. What might Depestre be trying to get across by writing the novel in this way? 
  • Critics have often debated how to interpret and respond to the effusive eroticism of certain parts of  Hadriana. What is your reaction to the depiction of sexuality in this first part of the novel?

We encourage you to reflect on the above questions – and whatever else, of course – in the comment section below, as a lead-in to our first conversation.

For further information: 

RECAP

During our first meeting of the In All My Dreams Book Club, we first discussed the background of this particular project, and the link to the art exhibit being prepared for February 2020. We then provided a quick biographical sketch about Depestre, and a few thoughts about what we consider makes this novel such a rich and interesting text to discuss. 

Our conversation began with an exploration of the question of time and temporality in the novel. A number of people then explored this question, bringing in moments in the first chapter where the question of time, in its different forms and layers, was evoked. 

We then turned to a discussion about the gender politics of the novel, and how to interpret it as well as how to think about the possibilities – and concerns – surrounding the teaching of the novel. Different participants shared experiences and thoughts about the question of pedagogy, and we also addressed the question of how sexuality is represented in the book from various angles.

You can read the comments made in the chat function for Zoom here:

Zoom-Chat-for-1st-In-All-My-Dreams-Bookclub-Meeting

Watch our last meeting here!

39 Replies to “René Depestre, Atlantic Nomad”

  1. Hello, all! Some of you know me, but by way of introduction, my name is Christopher Winks and I teach Comparative Literature at Queens College/CUNY. I’ve known about Depestre and his work for well over forty years, when I read some excerpts from “A Rainbow for the Christian West,” translated by poet Jack Hirschman, in a tabloid-format avant-garde poetry zine published in the SF Bay Area and called “Invisible City.” I caught the surrealism but at the time was completely unschooled in Haitian culture, history, mythology — you name it. But it wasn’t until starting Ph.D. work at NYU many years later that I was able to read him properly, with some sense of his background and trajectory. Along with his (in my view uneven) poems, I’ve read many of his essays, particularly “Bonjour et adieu à la négritude” (in Spanish), and they’ve always provided provocative and interesting arguments. I have my criticisms of Depestre, as I do of everyone, but I do think he is a major writer, and “longevity has its place,” as someone once said. I’d like to learn more from the other participants about their take on his work..

    The storytelling in “Hadriana…” is “un métier à métisser.” Stories make the world, in a certain sense, and they certainly make the worlds of the novel. Abandon consensus reality in favor of multiple and overlapping realms of (sur)reality — long live the marvelous and mad love and unbridled humor — that’s what I’m gathering from the tales told therein.

    Not being a puritan, I appreciate the eroticism (because it’s also funny, as the tricks of Eros tend to be — no Bataillesque moaning and groaning and puffing and blowing here).

    Christopher Winks says:
  2. – Raj Chetty, here, assistant professor of Black Literature and Culture at San Diego State University, and a specialist in literature and culture of the pan-Caribbean (not to be confused with the Harvard economist “Raj” Chetty). I previously taught at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. I have taught this novel in a course on Afro-diasporic spiritual/religious systems and practices and have taught Depestre’s long poem, A Rainbow for the Christian West (translated by Colin Dayan). So I have some familiarity with his work and reputation and am eager to deepen it. I’m really curious to learn more about how people teach this novel and/or Depestre’s work more broadly.
    – I love the layers in the novel, particularly the layers of humor. In re-reading the novel, I’m struck with how easily the novel moves (for readers), all the more impressive considering all these layers. And they’re Jacmelian layers, I think, as distinct from, or in addition to, being Haitian layers. I need to think about that more…
    – Satyrs!

    Raj Chetty says:
  3. Thank you for these great comments, Christopher & Raj! I love how you name the delight of the “multiple and overlapping” realms of the novel, Christopher, and agree with Raj that given its formal complexity its remarkable how “easily the novel moves” as a driving narrative tale. It will be great too to think through these as “Jacmelian layers,” something the artists working on the show are also exploring in really interesting ways.

    Laurent Dubois says:
  4. Hi everyone,

    Marlene Daut here (UVA): I, too, found myself pondering the function of humor in the novel (more than the eroticism, actually) and in the context of difficult histories, more generally. I wonder if the humor here in Hadriana is functioning in similar ways to how it works in some of the fictional writings of Dany Laferrière, particularly, in Pays sans chapeau, where Laferrière writes, “when everyone makes jokes in a country, it is because there is no longer anything else to do. Humor is the affair of the desperate.” I actually come back to this phrase in my mind very often in the context of Haitian history…..I just sit with it though….as I am not sure this is the right answer for understanding the question of humor in any context, but I am also not sure it’s wrong…..

    Marlene Daut says:
    1. Hi Marlene! My name is Nikki and I am one of Prof. Glover’s students. Humor is also one of the themes that stood out for me as I was reading this. A lot of the times, I wasn’t sure whether the humor was just a coating of a more profound concept that I just seemed to keep on missing, or if it was just a stylistic choice. It reminded me of a quote from another book as well. This one comes from Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian, where she remarks: “A tragic story told quickly might contract easily into a comedy, and without the measure of its depths make the audience laugh.”

      Nikki Wasomi says:
  5. Hi folks,

    Really excited about this, as I did my Ph. D on Depestre and Césaire 20 (!) years ago this year and I have not worked on Depestre for a while. He has fallen out of fashion, I guess, and I wonder if his work is ripe for a revival of sorts. It is wonderful that he is still alive!

    I met him once, in 1999 at his home, and he was so generous with me. It was at the time Man United won the European Cup, late spring. I have since lost touch with him.

    I guess I am interested in how the réalisme merveilleux and erotic aspects of the novel are read by today’s readers. The eroticism was a strong part of his poetry, of course, and seemed to have struck a chord in France at the time of the novel’s publication.

    I think he said he was able to buy his house (Villa Hadriana) on the back of sales of the novel. I wonder how many it sold?

    Looking forward to the chat tomorrow.

    Martin Munro says:
  6. Thank you/Mèsi for doing this. I look forward to the conversation.
    Kenbe la!
    Cécile

    Cécile Accilien says:
  7. Hi there – I teach Caribbean lit in the English dept at UMass Amherst. I know a lot less about Depestre than I would like to, but have some sense of his political commitments (beyond what one can glean from his satirical writing). I taught Hadriana to undergraduates a couple of semesters ago, and The Festival of the Greasy Pole in the spring. Not sure about what the layered storytelling is intended to achieve, but it does set a kind of tone: don’t expect simplicity here. About the eroticism: I enjoy it, on the whole; my students found it befuddling.

  8. Hello, thrilled to be part of this space.

    In reading the exciting comments posted thus far, I am struck by how, somehow, the layering and the erotic, and comedic are somehow connected. Perhaps Depestre, like Laferrière (drawing on Marlene’s comment), is one who orchestrates the affective impact of his texts. [Great video lecture on how affect is different than emotion: see link below.] That is, the novel is less about narrative events leading to a climax, but rather about affects leading to an emotional dénoument…? but which is, I am not sure? Many a time, notably in Gina A. Ulysse’s talks and work, we have thought along with her about what it means to constantly ‘deconstruct’ oppressive discourses, but how do we just steer clear of them? And, Depestre’s narrative layering, is it not a means to build apart from? Even if Hadriana in many ways on the surface seems Europeanized, is she?

    Also, maybe unrelated, but the children’s book by Laferrière La fête des morts… may be of interest as its narrative, not its build-up to affect, seems convivial to Depestre’s novel.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za8ew2WgcvA
    https://www.amazon.fr/f%C3%AAte-morts-Dany-Laferriere/dp/2923342275

  9. Revised comment… sorry!

    Hello, thrilled to be part of this space.

    In reading the exciting comments posted thus far, I am struck by how, somehow, the layering and the erotic, and comedic are somehow connected. Perhaps Depestre, like Laferrière (drawing on Marlene’s comment), is one who orchestrates the affective impact of his texts. [See great video lecture on how affect is different than emotion here below.] That is, the novel is less about narrative events leading to a climax, but rather about affects leading to an emotional dénoument…? but which it is, I am not sure? Many a time, notably in Gina A. Ulysse’s talks and work, she has encouraged us to think beyond ‘deconstruction’ and towards construction and the ‘new’. But how do we just steer clear of deconstruction and build anew? And, Depestre’s narrative layering, is it not a means to build apart from? Even if Hadriana in many ways on the surface seems Europeanized, is she?

    1. We’re thrilled to have you – hoping you’ll be situated to jump in directly next time with your wonderful thoughts and provocations, AB-K!

      Kaiama Glover says:
  10. Bonjou, bonjou a la wonn badè! Good morning everyone.

    I am thrilled by this conversation and innovative structure. Let us hope that conferences can create a curated online discussion option such as this one, for those of us who cannot always travel for varying reasons.

    Looking forward to hearing everyone in a few.

    Regine Isabelle Joseph says:
    1. Just to say, thanks for this comment, Régine. Indeed, this book club is modeled on a conference I co-organized with Alex Gil at Columbia now six years ago to commemorate the centenary of Aimé Césaire’s birth. Our aim was precisely what you articulate: to faciliate a conversation that could extend beyond the walls of our (expensive-to-fly-to) NYC campus and generate a broader community of interlocutors: http://cesairelegacies.cdrs.columbia.edu.

      Kaiama L Glover says:
  11. Hello all. I’m Njelle Hamilton (UVA). *Waves to all my friends and to all the other cool people I’m excited to be meeting here.* I first read Hadriana in French many moons ago in an undergrad seminar with Michael Dash (of blessed memory), and re-read the novel last summer, this time Kaiama’s lovely translation. All I remembered from my first reading of it at UWI were the erotic bits! Now, though, I’m particularly interested in how the novel treats time: how time is narrated (the layers and non-linear narration others have mentioned), as well as Hadriana’s and the narrator’s psychological experiences of time as events unfold.

    Njelle Hamilton says:
    1. Hi everyone,

      I’m Nathan Dize (Vanderbilt University) and I’m totally in love with how this conversation has unfolded in the comments and in the video! I only wish that I could’ve been there to raise my hand 🙂

      I was fascinated by the discussion of time, time “Haitian-style,” and the potentially regional specific notions of time. I’m thinking about how time has touched different regions of Haiti (the ruins of the Kingdom in the north, the Xaraguan artifacts found in Gonaïves, the youth of the apricot trees in Les Abricots, etc.)

      This leads me to think that region might be really important for the language of time, too. I don’t know if this is what you are thinking of, Njelle, as it relates to time but for me it was instructive to dwell on the way Kreyòl implies the gerund in certain expressions. Here I was thinking about/with the concept of “looking for life,” which can be identified regionally, too as “chache lavi/chèche lavi/cheche lavi/bouske lavi,” with each expression implying a place or region in Haiti depending on its variation. This might be a good way of splitting the difference between Raj’s comments on time and Michel’s example of “grate santi.”

      Nathan Dize says:
      1. Hey everyone,

        I’m Tayzhaun Glover (Duke University) from Laurent Dubois’ Black Atlantic course. I am also fascinated by the concept of time in this novel. What stood out to me the most was the connection between death and time. Time is fragmented in Hadriana in the sense that the narrative is not linear. Chapters jump between the present moment and the past, but I found that in several cases, death, or the presumption that someone has died, seems to be the catalyst for these breaks in time. Although these breaks create a fragmented narrative, I imagine them as existing on top of the present moment.

        This leads me to think about how death and time function in the lives of the characters in this novel. They psychologically experience time in different ways, but what does it mean to think about death and time as a connected process? Does death allow these characters to transcend reality and operate in a different temporal space? What does this mean in the context of Vodou? #CUDU

        Tayzhaun Glover says:
  12. Hello Njelle! This is a great point about the question of time in the novel, and the character’s psychological experiences of it. One of my favorite lines in this first chapter is on p. 31 of the translation: “…. God’s children somehow lost all sense of time: it could just as easily have been three thirty in the afternoon or three thirty in the morning, 1938 or 38 BC.”

    Laurent Dubois says:
  13. Hello! And thank you, conveners and teachers! What a fantastic opportunity. I enjoyed Hadriana in All My Dreams so much that by now I’ve sent it to three friends.

    I’m a writer —of journalism, mostly, but have lately been working on fiction. So I noticed that Depestre’s “layers upon layers of story-telling” also means layers upon layers of storytellers…. all of them embellishing, doubting, critiquing, distilling the story. It reminds me of the etymology of the Creole word “teledjol.” I like that it destabilizes narrative authority — or at least the authority of our narrator– and also roots authority in community, in the construction of social facts.

    1. I love this comment and appreciate what you’ve worked out here about storytelling. In effect, there are ways in which Depestre at once grants ‘authority’ to a single narrator, but then is sure to – as you say – destabilize that authority. This is, for me, one of the dimensions of the novel that’s often overlooked. And by the time we get ot the end (no spoilers!) there’s a real narrative shift worth discussing…

      Kaiama L Glover says:
      1. This is such a great point about the many story-tellers. In her Preface, Edwidge Danticat also links Depestre’s style to the tradition of “Lodyans.” I do think its very true that Depestre is seeking to capture the velocity, surrealism, & unexpected twists & turns that are part of many other forms of Haitian story-telling practice

        Laurent Dubois says:
    2. Thank you for these remarks, Pooja. I’m thinking a lot about your comment on social facts that take root in the authority of a community—and I wonder how this idea constructs and/or deconstructs a more general definition of “truth” or “facts.” Does reality matter if a false story is, in fact, true, according to a community’s accepted beliefs? In Professor Glover’s course, we recently discussed that there are stories and beliefs that circulate the community of Jacmel, which may allow its people to grapple with hard truths or to explain away things they don’t want to acknowledge. For example, is Balthazar Granchiré, the ravaging butterfly, really violating teens and wives, or is that a tale used to explain and justify actions that otherwise should not occur in the community? I’m jumping ahead in the book, but in light of this notion I keep thinking Patrick’s neurologist friend who proclaims that, “ceux qui croient au zombie sont des cons, ceux qui n’y croient pas sont encore plus cons” (122). That is to say that one may believe in something that is false, but it is even more foolish to refuse to believe in a community’s or society’s accepted truth.

      Some really interesting points were made in the video and comments about natural disaster and ecological trauma. I’m particularly struck thinking about a fluid/unstable idea of truth in the face of environmental crisis. As contemporary readers, we grapple with ways to develop and/or read for narratives of climate change and environmental crisis. So when we are faced with natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, or rising tides, how can we reconcile community-based social facts with statistical accuracy, without forcing a fixed and static, or empirical, “truth”?
      #CUDU

      Eirann Cohen says:
  14. Hi again everyone! I don’t want to take us away from the discussion of time in the novel, since that is the direction we are going right now. But I wonder if we can discuss at some point Edwidge Danticat’s intriguing declaration, “Depestre is Jacmelian and proud of it…” Can we talk about the concept of representation? Haitian nationalism? Is Depestre engaged in a project of counter-representation, not only for the city of Jacmel, but for Haiti, in general, particularly, vis-a-vis the wider Atlantic World’s understanding of/stereotypes about zombie/zonbi?

    Marlene Daut says:
    1. I’ve certainly thought quite a lot about this, notably given the fact of Depestre’s long-term geographical distance from Haiti. Haitian nationalism and counter-representation…I’m not entirely sure. There’s a way in which Depestre has worked hard not think Haiti in the world without borders – unbound? 😉 – as well as to represent his imagination of Haiti in its own right, not as a counter or corrective. I definitely want to come back to this and hear your thoughts. Perhaps during our conversation with you at the next meeting?

      Kaiama Glover says:
      1. Depestre’s Haiti is certainly unbounded, & boundless…

        Laurent Dubois says:
    2. This is a great point, & one that I think we should return to. What, exactly, is Jacmel for Depestre? It is a place, a history, a way of being, a form of story-telling, a vista, & a kind of (unrecoverable) utopia too.

      Laurent Dubois says:
  15. I came in a little late, but what I heard was great, very nice to hear everyone’s views. Well done to Laurent and Kaiama for setting it up.
    Looking forward to the next one.

    Just to reply quickly to Marlene’s point above, it is probably important to think of the text and the question of representation in the context of the author’s own trajectory. The novel was written nearly 30 years after he left Haiti, and he had long critiqued Haitian nationalism, so any sense of political ‘challenge’ in the text is limited, and perhaps plays second fiddle to the playful aspects, the eroticism, etc.

    He had already done his ‘political novel’ with Le mat de cocagne, and Hadriana is more like the short stories he published quite quickly around the same time. To some extent, after such a long exile, Haiti has become exotic to him.

    Martin Munro says:
    1. I’m glad you raised these points, Martin and Marlene. I don’t think we talked v much about Depestre as exile during today’s session, but I thought the novel was shot through with the longing of an exile. And to a certain extent, the narrator’s desire to recapture Jacmel in a kind of glory period, and Hadriana, and his youth, all of which seem mingled together.

      On matters of nationality, zombi and exile, I’d be curious to hear anyone’s thoughts on why the Siloés are identified as French…. why the soon-to-be-zombified “tutelary fairy of Jacmel” hails from the land of the oppressors?

    2. For what it’s worth, which may not be much, Depestre would strenuously resist the idea that Haiti has become exotic to him – so to the extent to which that may be/seem true, it largely escapes his conscious craft, I believe (having interviewed him a couple of times this past year). I’d be curious to talk more about the extent to which Hadriana is or isn’t a “political novel” – and about the way we understand that term in thinking about Haitian/Global South literature…

      Kaiama Glover says:
    3. These are really interesting points Martin. But I’ve always actually felt a political charge to this novel, though one that is delivered in part through form, through the upending of nationalist historical narratives, through the emphasis also on place and family and culture as being at the center of community. I would definitely like to discuss more how we think generally about Depestre’s engagement with “the political” in different registers.

      Laurent Dubois says:
      1. I think you are right, Laurent, given his past engagements, Depestre will always be a political writer in some way. I guess my simple/simplistic point was that Mât de cocagne was more obviously and directly ‘political’ in its allegorical representation of the Duvalier era.

        I also think it is interesting to consider the novel in its immediate temporal context–the late 80s, the rise of Créolité, Glissant coming to prominence, and Depestre negotiating all that (his references to creolization, métissage, etc.). It is also easy to forget that Haitian literature was relatively neglected back then, especially in Anglophone academia, and in comparison to the writing from the DOMs. That situation has now more or less reversed.

        Martin Munro says:
  16. Hi everyone! I had to miss last week’s launch but I am looking forward to being in conversation with *all* of you, and thank you again to Kaiama and Laurent for organizing this exciting endeavor. I first read Hadriana in the original French in 2003 while I was in graduate school. I had long been a fan of Depestre’s poetry (thanks to my dad, and my godfather) and was curious about his relationship to Cuba. Like Marina I was taken aback by the gender politics of the novel and reading from a black feminist perspective was (to be completely transparent) very put-off at the time. I agree with the utility of putting Depestre in conversation with Haitian women authors like Chauvet, and especially feminist authors like Poujol-Oriol. Reading the English version now I am paying close attention to the gender and sexual dynamics as well as the various “uses of the erotic.” While reading this time I have been struck by the what others have mentioned–the humor–though I would call it something more like wit…and the rootedness to a place–Jacmel. I also cannot help but reflect on the art of translation. This reading feels quite different to me and I am wondering how much of that is related to my own intellectual trajectory, reading it in a different language, or the nature of this enterprise ie. reading for discussion with you all rather than for research or teaching.

    Régine Jean-Charles says:
    1. Not for nothing that we asked you to lead our discussion of the novel’s third movement, Régine. I don’t want to give anything away, but can say that we’d hoped you’d bring your “black feminist perspective” to this rather surprising finish to the novel – that you’d want, precisely, to bring folks like Audre Lorde, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, Amber Jamilla Musser, and RMJ-C to bear on the text. In other words, we’re by no means done with the question of how gender and the erotic function in Hadriana. And it’s likely we won’t ever be. But there’s still quite a bit to be sorted out on that front…

      Kaiama L Glover says:
  17. Hi all! Had to miss the first discussion, but am caught up with the commentary, and the many wonderful questions you have already opened up. I am Alex Gil. When I’m not working as a librarian at Columbia University, I tend to research Caribbean surrealism, especially Depestre’s good friend, Aimé Césaire. I’m really excited by this format that Laurent and Kaiama are exploring here as much as I am by the novel. Thank you for doing this, friends.

    Here’s my 0.02 for this round. When I started reading the first movement, I had to go back many times to a previous layer to be able to retake the thread. I don’t know if that happened to any of you. In this back and forth, I noticed how the layers grow from one another in the same way that things grow from one another in the story: Germaine’s eyebrows grow into a moth, the moth becomes a man who became a moth, which has penis which grows continuously, and so on. What is happening to the characters is happening to the novel, and I love it.

    We could wax philosophical about this, but I prefer to focus on the movement between reality and surreality that this becoming enables. I am somewhat stubbornly convinced that what is surreal to a North Atlantic reading (and editorial) public, is simply just real to many of us, nothing su- about it. I have used the word “para-real” elsewhere, can’t remember where, to describe this phenomenon: for a mixed audience our worlds seem to be next to reality because they go mostly unseen and unexperienced in their plenitude—perhaps a result of what Dixa Ramirez calls “ghosting.” By moving between a narrative that is accessible to a mixed audience and one that seems magical, nevertheless, I think Depestre does a good job of having his nomad cake and eating it too.

    We could also connect this to Pooja Agarwal’s keen observation that the Rashomon effect used by Depestre also “roots authority in community.” This makes me imagine two types of readers generated out of this literary technique: a reader that is individualized, and will constantly be yearning for an empirical truth behind these mysteries; and another who will recognize immediately the truth is in the aggregate of voices that you have to carry with you as part of a community.

    1. These are gorgeous reflections, Alex, and in many ways mirror my experience of teaching/presenting the novel. I was invited to talk about it in a bunch of places after the translation came out, and the response of audiences couldn’t have been more “marked” by cultural identification. In a nutshell, the question of the exotic and the erotic in the novel (back to your comments/queries, Marina, Rachel, Régine, others) was taken up in vastly different ways by the postcolonial graduate students I spoke to at NYU and the undergrads and grads I talked to at the University of Miami and at St. John’s in Queens, New York. In the latter two contexts, several – if not a majority – of the students self-identified as Caribbean. We can talk about why that might have been. I suspect you may have some notions…

      Kaiama L Glover says:
      1. I’m really interested too in the ways that novel resonates in different ways with different audiences, and also the way that in our discussions so far a number of people have mentioned how reading the novel at different moments and contexts in their own lives has shifted their perspective on it. I’ll be teaching the novel this Spring in a graduate class on the Black Atlantic, and am very interested to see how it gets read as part of a matrix of reflections on culture and diaspora there. And I also know we’ll all learn a lot from collectively talking about our reactions as we read as a collective — both for those reading for the first time and those returning for the novel.

        Laurent Dubois says:
  18. Hi all, one of Professor Glover’s students here! I was particularly fascinated by the political undertones of the novel. It appears evident from the beginning of the novel that Hadriana Siloé is a metaphorical incarnation of Haiti; we can even read her last name as an anagram for the French word “isolé,” meaning isolated, which either encapsulates the seclusion and remoteness of the island itself, or foreshadows Hadriana’s internal solitude. At the same time, however, she is a French, white woman; as such, she is in the midst of two cultures. The fractured nature of Hadriana’s essence is captured in the political history of Haiti itself. This dichotomy is personified with the symbol of flags: “j’ai compris que c’était un tournoi aérien entre la France et Haïti: bleu, blanc, rouge, contre bleu et rouge” (p. 155). The marriage scene (p. 46) in particular evokes this political narrative underpinning the novel. Right as Hadriana pronounces the ritual “yes” at the altar, marking her marriage to Hector, she dies; this marks the impossibility of a cultural and political union between France and Haiti. Though Depestre goal was perhaps not in presenting a “political novel” per se, Hadriana’s character is not only an allegorical manifestation of the political histories of the island, but a call for freedom from the Duvelier regime.

    Iga Szlendak says:
    1. Iga, I really like what you’ve identified here, and I think that Hadriana’s sort of dual essence is, in part, a reflection upon the community. She’s both a projection of the communities “alienated admiration for all things French” as well as a perfect use of an extremely Haitian literary device, because of which she is alienated from the community. I guess I am interested then in this idea of exploitation. How does Depestre exploit her identity as a white woman to show this impossible dichotomy of cultures that exists within this town?

      Sarah Hilligoss says:
    2. Hi Iga!

      I think your comment about Depestre’s novel being open to interpretation as a call for freedom from the Duvalier regime is extremely interesting. I find that one can also interpret his work as an aesthetic shift in the portrayal of Vodou and of Haiti. At the time of the novel’s setting (1938-1980s) and its publishing (1980s) there was a strong anti-Vodou sentiment within Haiti marked by the Stenio Vincent regime and the decline of Duvalierisme. The shift is evident within the lyrical portrayal of Haiti and the serious probes into the role and relevance of zombiefication done by Patrick. However, I’m curious about the significance of the novel’s resolution taking place outside of Haiti.

      Tameka Gosine says:
  19. Hello Tayzhaun! As you mentioned there is a correlation between death and time. There are several layers of narration in the novel which helps the audience understand how different characters view death and the events from their point of view. René Depestre doesn’t write a single story. On the contrary, he forces the reader to think critically based on the multiple layers of narrative. For instance, throughout the novel we see how the people in Jacmel view Hadriana’s death but in the end the reader gets to know Hadriana’s feelings about her marriage and her own death.

    Overall, there is a fine line between surreality and reality and the reader can interpret the novel in both ways. For Haitian readers the events that take place in the novel are part of their reality and their experience with Vodou religion. The way I read the novel was from the perspective of getting to know a new world based on the narration of multiple stories.

    Anastasia Vontzou says:

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