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:
- http://ile-en-ile.org/depestre/ [in French]
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Depestre [in English]
- Treva B. Lindsey and Jessica Marie Johnson, “Searching for Climax: Black Erotic Lives in Slavery and Freedom,” Meridians 12. 2 (2014): 169- 195).
- READER’S GUIDE
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!