Hadriana’s Voice

“I died on the night of the most beautiful day of my life.”

January 23, 2020 12-1PM EST

Movement 3 of the novel again takes us into yet another, entirely surprising set of stories – told, this time, in Hadriana’s own words. We’ll discuss what we learn from her self-telling of womanhood and zombification, and consider the alternative geography of the Caribbean Depestre poses here. We’ll pay particular attention to the ending of the novel, and the stories it enticingly leaves untold.

To begin the discussion, our  Boston College colleague Régine Michelle Jean-Charles, who will be opening the session on Thursday, has shared these thoughts. We invite you to respond in the comments section below as we prepare for our discussion!

Hadriana’s Tale: A Survivor Narrative

Régine Michelle Jean-Charles

“Hadriana’s tale” is not only a first-person account of her “zombie adventure exactly as she lived it,” it can be read as both a testimony and a survivor narrative. As a survivor narrative, this section foregrounds Hadriana’s embodied subjectivity. Her voice, her body, her mind, her plans, and her movements animate the novel’s conclusion and re-calibrate our perspective of who is Hadriana Siloé. From the first paragraph, I was struck by how she deliberately she balances her account of what happens to her with the opinions and actions of others. “It was said that I had been swept away by the fire of my consent….” she writes then quickly offers a corrective “Truth be told my false death had begun an hour before…” (189). By simultaneously assessing what was said about her and what actually happens Hadriana exerts her authority as the only one who could actually tell her tale accurately. Although her chronicle is written before Patrick “lets her read [his] tale of her extraordinary past,” her knowledge of what people are saying about her, and evaluation how wrong they are makes me wonder how she responded to Patrick’s account in real time? With her written account, she not only establishes herself as the sole proprietor of her voice and her story, but she also implicitly critiques the appropriation and myth-making that surround her.

Hadriana’s embodied knowledge of her experience is central to this survivor narrative. She registers what she feels, smells, sees, tastes, and hears over and over again. How does her embodied perspective challenge us to re-consider the ways that her body is objectified, exoticized, and imagined prior to this section? How does her awareness of her body complicate or disrupt the hyper-awareness of her body in other perspectives? I was fascinated by how she is simultaneously visible and invisible in this section. “No one noticed the state I was in” (191). What does it mean that everyone is gathered around her yet no one actually notices her and what is happening to her? Her fiancé, is especially guilty in this regard. “And Hector saw me for the first time in my bridal gown, the idea that he would soon be able to take it off me was completely blinding him” (191). To me this also shows the danger of making someone (a white French woman) into an icon or an idol. What she symbolizes or represents means more to people that her actual lived experience. In fact, at one point it seems as though their fascination with her body (and Hadriana as symbol) leads to their inability to discern what happened to her. When the doctors take her pulse, they continue to be distracted by her body, even in death (197). Hadriana calls attention to her experience “as she lived it” and her body as she feels it, by fully engaging each of her senses. On the one hand the attention to her body must be put in the context of her unfolding death, but, on the other hand when we consider all of the ways in which her body has been represented heretofore, Hadriana’s understanding of her body is striking. “The sounds, the colors, the lights, the smells–they made a jumble of confused impressions on my muddled senses” (192). As she takes us through her “muddled senses” taste, sight, touch, and sound are rendered in vivid detail that often made me think, how much of this is because she is dying and how much is about how she lives in the world? After all she is “a woman desperately, passionately, fatally in love with life” (249). To this end, what exactly does she mean by: “as before, I had to live and listen to myself living” (227)?

Survivor narratives are also characterized by a sense of agency. Nowhere is this more clear than in Chapter 12 when she describes her “will to live.” She fights for her life using her body, first seeming to channel all of her energy into living, then running through the town and banging on the doors of her community. Another marker of her agency is how she describes her sexual pleasure and desires. The intensity of her sexual experience with Lolita Philisbourg who “cultivates” Hadriana’s springtime garden also brought to mind Omi’seke Tinsley’s work in Thiefing Sugar on the use of the language of landscape to describe eroticism between women. How do the references to her “ripe almond” and “box of dreams” register differently from Hadriana’s vantage point? How does the erotic scene with Lolita figure in relation to how the erotic functions in the entire novel? Put differently, what is the difference in both description and substance of how sexuality and sensuality figure in this section, versus the rest of the book?

I also noted that her experience gives her a renewed sense of purpose, which is often the final element of the survivor narrative—it points to the lasting impact of what happens to the person who has survived (244). According to this view, the experience of survival should be situated in a larger context both within and beyond the individual’s life. Interestingly, in Hadriana’s case, her newfound awareness also leads to a deeper communion with the land, which is also consistent with how the land operates in vodou. Here again we can read her relationship to both the sea and the garden through an ecofeminist lens that sheds that adds more layers to what Depestre is doing with her narrative.    

Lastly, I wondered about the love story aspect of the novel. Colin Dayan has noted, the reason why Depestre and Gallimard did not want to give Rouch the rights to the film was because they feared he would elide the love story. Do we agree that Hadriana in All My Dreams is truly a love story? And if so, what kind of love and between whom?

Reading: Movement 3

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33 Replies to “Hadriana’s Voice”

  1. Hi all, one of Professor Glover’s seminar students here. I looked at Hadriana’s section of the novel in my last essay. I was interested in how idealized she was by Patrick, and by all of Jacmel, and how in the last section of the book she really sets things straight and takes back her own narrative. It’s clear that from the beginning, she is objectified for her physical beauty –– but what interested me in particular was the language used to describe her. Hadriana is referred to as a rose, a fairy, an angel, a star, a jewel –– either an inanimate object, or a magical, ethereal being that doesn’t really exist –– such that she’s actually denied her humanity. I thought it was ironic that, through this myth of her perfection and this fairy-tale language, she’s considered this superhuman, supernatural being long before she even becomes a zombie.

    Revisiting her section of the book, I really came to appreciate how sharp her character is –– fully aware of how she is perceived by the Jacmeliens, and pushing back against it, even gently mocking it. When she is called « une étoile qui n’a brillé qu’une fois » Hadriana demands, « Où ? Quand ? La nuit de Meyer sous la grande main tremblante de Patrick? Au jardin du manoir, dans les bras révérencieux de mon Hector? » simultaneously ridiculing this repeated metaphor of her as a shining star and reaffirming her sexuality (183). Later, expressing regret about not having consummated her marriage before her death, she reveals that her fiancé « avait eu peur de souiller la chair blonde de la fée française, fille créole d’un prince des maths et du tabac » (168). Here, she uses the same fairy-tale language that others use to describe her, calling herself a « fairy » and her father a « prince », to express her frustration at being treated so gingerly. Able to tell her story in her own words, Hadriana upends and dispels this myth that has surrounded her up until this point –– first and foremost by demonstrating that she is a human being, with thoughts, desires, and agency –– and then by taking back and twisting around the very language that was used to idealize her.

    Alexandra Lozada says:
    1. I think your point about how the third movement really gives Hadriana her own voice is so important. The first two movements give us the character of Hadriana very much from a male gaze point of view. While Patrick seems to respect her as a character, she is seen through her “beauty” and from a relative distance. As you said, she is referred to as a jewel or a fairy etc.. On top of this, I was struck by the juxtaposition in the second movement of the Le Monde Article (2nd movement, chapter 2), and the following chapter in which Patrick despairs over Hadriana not being mentioned. Patrick considers Hadriana to be a part the essence of Jacmel, and that she contributes to it’s personality as much as the “intensely tropical” landscape or the “Kraft Sister’s Bed and Breakfast”. I wondered if this can be seen as objectifying Hadriana further or putting her higher up this pedestal that he seems to already have her on? But again, is this pedestal also classifiable as being objectifying? In the third section, by giving Hadriana her own voice, we are given the answer to many of the previously unanswered questions. Depestre’s technique of changing the narrator seems to give the reader a sort of 360 degree view of the events, from the outside (as Patrick) and from the inside (as Hadriana). I wondered why people might have thought that Depestre chose to have Hadriana’s chapter as the final one? On top of this, as Alexandra said, Hadriana is able to dispel the myth and the ‘legendification’ of her character as she is humanized in the first person narrative. I wondered why Depestre might have wanted to clear up some of the mystery? Did it make the piece more satisfying to readers by seeing Hadriana break through the mystery and respond to all the unanswered questions?

      Ariella Paradise says:
  2. Hi all, I am a student in Professor Glover’s class. I was interested in the choice of Depestre to include Hadriana’s perspective in the Third Movement and what he wanted us to draw from her character by the end of the book. As mentioned in the introduction of this week’s discussion, the third movement is very much a self-telling of womanhood, which we previously do not get in the book. For my final paper, I focused on the idea of redemption and the end of the book. However, it seems that perhaps the whole of the Third Movement is Depestre’s way of redeeming Hadriana’s character. Hadriana loses possession over her own body as the poison infiltrates her being, “lodged (themselves) in (her) genitals” and “rise up through (her) throat”. While she is totally marginalized and incapable of controlling herself, she hints of the previous marginalization that she experienced in society prior to her zombification. There is the implication of sex as a sin and she starts to believe that zombification is her punishment. She speaks of her temptation to have sexual relations before marriage and her relations with Lolita, and says she has sinned (207). It appears that Hadriana is both trapped in her state as a zombie but also trapped in her status in society as a woman. Hadriana escapes both society and zombification by the end of the book as she flees her kidnappers and then Jacmel for a better life. Hadriana’s character experiences a huge transition following her zombification. Her petit bon ange is trapped in an “old jeroboam of champagne” (213) which literally turns her into an object – highlighting her previous objectification. She flees on her own using the forces of nature and receives no aid from the people of Jacmel. I believe that Depestre chose these aspects to redeem the previously helpless character of Hadriana and to free her from the confines of her zombie state and from the confines of society. I wondered what people thought of the use of nature in her great escape and her “connections to the sea, the sky, the birds, the rain, the trees, and the wind” (244) ? Hadriana becomes a leader of a community who help her and they flee to Jamaica. Hadriana makes the point that her white complexion is to her advantage when it comes to getting a visa (249). Is this Depestre’s way of giving her power through her complexion and her gender, after being previously marginalized and objectified, or is he hinting at a greater issue of inequality in which white skin is incorrectly a source of power?

    Ariella Paradise says:
  3. Like, Ally I was also interested in how Hadriana was represented, and how this contrasted with her own voice.
    Hadriana’s character was made into a myth, or a collective memory of Jacmel. Exploring the reactions to her death, there is a mythification of Hadriana: “A sa mort, les Jacmeliéns, qui l’aimaient et l’admiraient comme une fée, l’intégrèrent, le soir même, au répertoire des fables du pays, dans une fantastique histoire” (51). Overall, she is intergrated into the narrative of their history as “un fable,” seemingly dehumanizing her. Additionally, she is described as the reason Jacmel was ever prosperous, and thus, her death creates the end to the “opulence de Jacmel” (126).
    Hadriana defies this legendification and even her affect on Jacmel’s prosperity, detaching herself from the identity of Jacmel: “Alors, il n’y avait rien de plus urgent que de me projeter vers les hauteurs du jour resplendissant qui continuait sans moi a étinceler sur les eaux denses et bleues du golfe de Jacmel” (189). Here, Hadriana prioritizes herself, and in doing so, affirms her separation from Jacmel. The day continues to sparkle on the waters of the gulf of Jacmel, without her. This distinction is Hadriana’s way of denouncing the way she was previously viewed and dehumanized by the people of Jacmel. She captures her voice and places herself above the perceptions imposed onto her by others.

    Katherine says:
  4. As an as-yet non verbal participant with a tape over my small computer camera, and avid listener to the three preceding meetings, and as a History major in college, I have been impressed with the many thoughtful and deep-beyond- my -usual -reading of literature. I have a long history in Haiti – My first visit was with my parents and siblings. My step-father Larry Mellon had read about Albert Schweitzer and decided to leave his life as a rancher, return to academics to become a doctor to serve in a place of need. My mother Gwen totally embraced this move. Serendipity brought us to Haiti in the summer of 1952 where a site for the future Hôpital Albert Schweitzer was identified. I have traveled to Haiti, to Deschapelles, every year since with children and grandchildren. After the EQ ten years ago, at the behest of the Essex CT selectmen, friends and I created a Sister Cities relationship with the village of Deschapelles – we have established the community’s first request for a library as well as supporting Early Childhood Education, Tennis and Music programs. Having books in French and Kreyol for children and adults to read in this rural town provides them with the opportunity to enjoy books beyond the academic ones they use in school, and to read for pleasure, enjoyment, and to expand their own horizons.
    My travels through Hadriana have been totally enhanced by my long relationship with the country of Haiti. On our first summer there in 1952 we visited Jacmel and stayed at Pension Kraft when the two sisters were still alive.. Memories of sitting on the galerie looking over the street came back strongly in Rene Despestre’s descriptions. I also accepted all the “fantasies” just as they were presented without doing any deep inspection. such as the Carnival descriptions, enjoying all the international and generational unanticipated characters who “attended” in costumes, – why not? I totally enjoyed re-reading Edwidge Danticat’s “After the Dance.” That book enriched my enjoyment of descriptions in Hadriana and Carnival as seen from another generation (or two)
    I really liked Despestres’ introduction of first sexual experiences of young women as being joyous,. and the fantasy of the butterfly/dragonfly as the kind “introduction” to what should always be a beautiful experience. I liked reading of Hadriana’s experiences of desire being positively described. In this day and age of the much needed attention of the many abuses of women in the work place, in UN Peace Keepers actions, it was really nice to read of positive first experiences in Hadriana.
    As in much of Haiti, you can’t always fully understand everything – you just take it as it comes – I have long been interested in zombification, and was delighted to have Hadriana escape from her situation through her own physical and emotional strength. Sure, all the houses were shuttered and she could not be heard knocking at the doors because of the downpour, and sure, she had the energy to out-run her pursuers, and sure, magically the small boat with adventuring Haitians off to Jamaica gave her a good exit. And sure, I was not surprised when the wandering academic with his actually increasing love for Hadriana actually arrived in Jamaica, and they were united in love that they could not have happened any other way…
    So there are my offerings of my “lay-mans” clear enjoyment of this wonderful book. With much appreciation to those of you who have enhanced my deeper understanding and enjoyment. I look forward to the upcoming reception with Edwidge Danticat as well as the presentation at Barnard of the anticipated mural by my lovely friend Nathalie Jolivert’
    Jenifer Grant

    Jenifer Grant says:
    1. I hope you’ll share some of your thoughts aloud today, Jenifer – I find your perspective on / reading of the novel so important. Your framing of Hadriana’s tale and, especially, of her sexuality against a contemporary narrative that focuses too readily on abjection in Haiti is crucial – as is your reminder that the fantastic does its own sort of work in the world. Thank you for these reflections.

  5. Hello,

    First superbly excited to hear Régine and Kaiama today. I can finally make it back to this last discussion.

    The present discussion is very exciting to me, for in my rapport to the novel over the decades (yes, I am old!), has included:
    –Régine’s pivotal work on survivor narratives, which I use constantly in my work: Here, I am interested in what it means to embody a narrative of survival, and that the survival be embodied: is the embodied a being of its own? or is it always linked to the individual human? how is the embodied a shared experience? and if so, can the embodied experience be its own being? (I know I am getting a bit philosophical here… un peu tiré par les cheveux…)
    –Kaiama’s superbly pivotal work on the notion of zonbi: how do we read the zonbi as a productive category analysis for the survival narrative? Can we? And what is at stake in doing so?;
    –and, Kaiama’s students’ thinking through what Alexandra mentions as the third movement “really giv[ing] Hadriana her own voice,” as well, as
    –Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley’s last book on Ezili and my own reading up on how trans engages in discourses of embodied knowledge, gender, trauma

    With the aforementioned in mind, I am excited by the following questions, if we have time to discuss:

    I always (following on Kaiama’s work) found it problematic, that Depestre “gave” Patrick who in turn “gave” Hadriana her voice… but perhaps with the above mélange of theoretical frameworks, are we looking at a gender fluidity that is proper to Vodouyizan intellectualism, which means that this giving on the part of the coded-as-male first narrative voices (Patrick at different moments in his life, or Damballah if we think of St. Patrick’s effigy and the role of snakes) is perhaps in fact not male, but another expression of gender? Is Hadriana forever feminine in the most stereotypical versions of what it means to be feminine, or is there another way to read her gender? And of course, how does differentiating narrators/narrative voices play into how we think about identity: Is identity who we are? or rather following on Gloria Wekker’s work on gender and sexuality , what we do? or how we voice ourselves at any given moment? And if the latter, to which identity are we accountable or do we perform our accountability?

    2. So my last question, that also I am very eager to discuss if we have time is:

    More for Régine, how does accountability work in this novel? Accountability to the crime that forces Hadriana into a situation of which she is the survivor? Who is the criminal? And who is the victim? What is the crime?

    And following on the last presentation I had the honor of seeing of Kaiama’s, perhaps in a more traditional sense of ‘the political’, how does accountability work in terms of the relationship among Caribbean nation-states and their politics?

    1. I”m totally abuzz with the questions you’ve brought up here, Alessandra. I think there’s a lot of room to delve into this question of Hadriana’s gender and sexual identity (note that she is confused for Simbi-la-source, a “male” deity,” at the conclusion) and the extent to which these identities bear on her (self-)liberation.

      And of course you know I’ll want to talk about what Depestre’s done with his 1938 white(ish) woman zombie – both in the context of the US Marine tall-tales-cum-Hollywood movies and vis-à-vis the broader scope of Haitian literary representations of this figure…Putting the zombie smack dab in the middle of the “survivor narrative” frame Régine has introduced is intriguing to say the least.

  6. Thanks, Regine, for such a helpful framework for our discussion. Hadriana telling the story from her own perspective at the end is a fascinating turn, and as you say gives her a chance to “critique the appropriation and myth-making that surround her.”

    Reading the last section, I felt like it really brought home how central Hadriana’s race and gender are to her experience and to the novel. I couldn’t help but think of a letter from Jean Rhys to her publisher describing the decision that made Wide Sargasso Sea “click into place”: using stories and imagery about zombies to represent the husband’s initial paranoia and eventual domination of Antoinette. Rhys explains this use because the zombie is “usually a woman I think.” To me, that’s Rhys engaging more with film versions of the zombie from the 1930s and 1940s (ie, White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie where the zombies are white women) than any Haitian narratives or beliefs.

    It made me think of Hadriana’s speaking back as happening in the context not just of Patrick’s version of her story but of international versions of the white woman as zombie. (The mention of Seabrook on 134 had planted these thoughts even earlier.) I’ll have to think more about what it might do to our reading of the last section as testimony if we include this context.

    Rafe Dalleo says:
  7. Hello all:

    Jumping in late but very excited for today’s discussion on the end of the novel. Our discussions last year have inspired me to teach this novel this semester in a course on Caribbean Sci-Fi and Fantasy and I can’t wait to hear what my students think. Thank you, Regine, for your thought-provoking meditations and questions, and for all the comments posted above.

    As I read to the end of the novel this time a couple of things struck me: the first is that, no matter how many times I read the novel and even with the discussions we’ve had so far that have helped me think more favorably of Depestre’s choices regarding gender, I’m still uncomfortable with the placement and content of Hadriana’s tale. As others have remarked above, I too am very ambivalent about the fact that her voice/tale only emerges after and authorized (prefaced) by Patrick.

    Related to that: in my class we’ve just finished reading Bennett’s Anansi stories and Chamoiseau’s Creole Folktales to think about how in Caribbean myths and fables, storytelling is power (Anansi’s lisp and gift of the gab to outwit the more powerful). And so as I’m thinking about the framing and placement of Hadriana’s voice/narrative, I think most of my ambivalence is not only due to its belatedness but that it mostly affirms Patrick’s version. I’m thinking back to the earlier parts of the novel when Scylla tells us the tale of the fantastic seven loins, and both we and Patrick have a hard time believing it… until Patrick’s own narrative in the next chapter affirms it. What do others make of this narrative choice of double, even triple, retelling, in terms of power/reliability or in terms of Depestre’s larger critique of ‘prior’ narratives (about Haiti, about zombies, etc)?

    Finally, the other thing that struck me in the final parts of the novel, is the repeated riff on the word/flesh dichotomy in the gospel of John (which Patrick explicitly quotes)—the idea that, in the Christian tradition, the divine Logos/Word became flesh, and even further, died and was resurrected (Yay, Zombie Jesus!). On the one hand I think Depestre is offering a tongue in cheek rejoinder to the dismissal of zombie lore (hey, if your guy can do it…), but I’m also thinking now about Hadriana’s narrative as a kind of play on that dichotomy on numerous levels: Hadriana’s tale is all word, but her tale is prefaced by her reappearing in the flesh after several decades of haunting the text/Patrick’s memory. And of course, her story is about the fight for her body by two distinct traditions—at her wake, the embodied/bawdy carnival masquerades center on and celebrate the body, the sexual, the reproductive, by collapsing the life-death, joy-grief, Catholic-vodou binaries. Perhaps that carnivalesque word/flesh motif reframes her tale as the triumph of the black and bawdy, the successful reclaiming of Hadriana, not as white virgin fairy girl but as sensual creole woman…? (see also the post-death carnivalesque creolization of Cathy in Conde’s Wuthering Heights, itself a re-telling…)

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Njelle H says:
  8. I came in late to the discussion (and couldn’t find my raise hand button) but have been thinking a lot about how much voice Hadriana did or didn’t have. Thinking about word and flesh, as Njelle brought up, had me thinking of the ways in which this is a narrative Russian nesting doll of stories. There are so many openings and closings in this story (I can’t find the passage at the moment, but she’s even described as “opening” the imagination of the Jacmelian people). She is interred and becomes part of the Jacmelian earth: “integrated into the very fabric of the savegely obscured earth, into the density and darkness of the Jacmelian soil” and therefore becomes a physical part of Jacmel in addition to acting as some sort of muse (224). So too, it seems is she “interred” in Patrick’s story. He is the envelope for her letter, so to speak. It does feel on one level very much like a very different voice and her own story. At the same time, Patrick gets the full range of his life story told in retrospect–with all the qualifications and wisdom age might bring, and all we get is Hadriana as a teenager. She gets no addition to the excerpts she shares with Patrick. It’s as if, although she’s escaped having her ti bon ange and gran bon ange captured in bottles, she’s still captured in this story. And I’ve always wondered about the authenticity of Hadriana’s testimony here. Perhaps it’s really only just me, but after she writes about their near-sexual encounter on the beach, she waxes poetic (actually, not really–but at length) about Patrick’s penis. She has a “ripe almond,” but he has “something pretty impressive going on himself: not your average little dickie or some sweet diddly wee-wee–more like a magnificent piece of manhood, ready for a spectacular nocturnal voyage” (200). This passage reveals something about Hadriana’s sexual desire, but it also felt like a nod and a wink from Depestre–that Patrick might be invested in parts of this story as an editor.

    Stephanie Curci says:
  9. A question I did not have time to ask was, really, isn’t Patrick Depestre? – the fellow who has roamed Europe and become an academic, always dreaming of trying to re-connect with an early love? Or is this “connu” and taken for granted? I do like the concept that it could have been a tale of Depestre’s pesonal life and he figured out how to make a fantastic novel including many of his favorite and unique characters and aspects of Jacmel.
    Suggestions for another book by him?

    Jenifer Grant says:
    1. #CUDU Hi ! Thank you for this comment. I have been trying to figure out the symbolic of Hadrianna’s body and its relation to the landscape, but also, I would add, to the notion of Land in a more general way. I think Hadrianna embodies Jacmel’s landscape, is part of it, she is it’s “Majesté Simbi-La-Source”. Her body is nature, it symbolises the rythmes of Vaudou, the sensuality of Jacmel. However, Hadrianna is also the representation of Land/lands. She embodies the marriage of two countries: “La France et Haiti: bleu, blanc, rouge, contre bleu et rouge”(167). She carries in her heart the colors of two flags, two cultures, two religions. She is the representation of an undying conflit. She seems to handle it peacefully. In her fake death she felt “plus près d’un tambour de Carnaval” (172), but she says “merci Mon Père” (183) before her burial. She doesn’t seem to hold a grudge after the trauma that she has gone through. She leaves Jacmel peacefully. How does the reader interpret this forgiveness? Do we accept it? Do we leave Hadrianna and the novel in peace? Do we choose a land? A flag? A religion?

      Samar Miled says:
  10. I’d love to address the depiction of femininity and the female body as it is related to nature and landscape. Throughout the book, women’s bodies are described as sweet and edible—the vagina is a ripe almond, lips are juicy mangoes, hair is honey. This can of course be interpreted in many ways. For example, it may signal the objectification or commodification of the female body, or a projection of the docile and giving nature of women. Conversely, that a woman’s body is often described as fruits and other natural elements instills landscape with a feminine essence. While reading, I was drawn to the term “femme-jardin.” This designation seems to imply a view of the female body that is not bound by its corporality, but rather something in tune with rhythms of the earth. After her death and escape, Hadriana’s reinvigorated existence and freedom as a woman is tied to the landscape: “Mes liens ont été resserrés pour toujours avec la mer, le ciel, les oiseaux, la pluie, les arbres, le vent. Mon sens vital s’est de même aiguisé pour la perception des humains et des animaux” (186). Her reinvigorated existence is evoked by landscape and the natural world. Conversely, that a woman’s body is often described as fruits and other natural elements instills landscape with a feminine essence. I don’t want to risk essentializing this view of a female body tied to nature as pure or good (nature is a commodity that can be exploited after all). But I do think that there is a powerful, almost mystical force inherent in a femininity tied to the environment. I wonder, then, how the symbolic “femme-jardin” figure can be both tied to fetishization and liberation, especially in light of Haiti’s history of slavery that is rooted in the landscape?

    Eirann Cohen says:
  11. Hi all,
    I am one of Laurent’s students, participating in the #CUDU conversation.

    Jacmel’s geographic positioning struck me as I read this novel. The bay of Jacmel appears as a visual theme throughout but seems to hold particularly potent meaning at the very start and very end of the book. As I read the final pages of the third movement—in which Hadriana wanders through Jacmel, gets soaked in the saltwater of the bay, and finally makes a watery escape from her captors to Jamaica—I was transported back to the first chapter, and the death of Germaine Villaret-Joyeuse, and her trip in a “Zombie car on the loose” through Jacmel. (34) On her deathbed, Germaine expresses her desire to be driven to the bay of Jacmel because, in her vision, it exactly resembled “the space between purgatory and Eden.” (45) It is this “maritime path to heaven” that would bring her “eternal bliss at the end of her earthly trials.” (45, 32) To me, these two women’s escapes via the bay, or afterlives—one involving real death/zombie car, the other involving failed zombification, both to be (hopefully) resolved over water—raise questions about the position of Jacmel and Haiti in Depestre’s writing, especially for women. What does it mean for this town to be located on the path of purgatory/heaven, and a site of zombification surrounded by saltwater (salt being a cure for zombies)? Additionally, as others have mentioned on this site, it is intriguing that Patrick and Hadriana meet in Jamaica. To me this framing also emphasizes Jacmel’s particular in-betweenness—culturally, spiritually, historically. Such in-betweenness further parallels the ambiguities of zombies and Hadriana’s identity.

    Finally, like Dr. Jean-Charles, I was struck by how Hadriana closes her narration. Hadriana describes herself as “fatally in love with life.” (249) This framing dovetails with Dr. Glover’s argument that Hadriana’s story “insists on… the right to refuse determination by the needs or desires of someone or something outside him or herself.” (Glover, “Exploiting the Undead” [2005], 119) For me, Hadriana’s love for life and self-possession–including the self-possession of her sexuality–contrasts dramatically with the obsessive love that pervades the novel. This contrast in love/desire also makes me wonder about Patrick’s account of his reunion with Hadriana. What would she have said about it?

    These are my thoughts at the moment; I’m looking forward to reading what others have taken away from this novel.

    RSR says:
  12. One theme that I’d like to raise is the depiction of femininity that is related to nature and landscape. Throughout the book, women’s bodies are described as sweet and edible—the vagina is a ripe almond, lips and breasts are ripe fruit, hair is honey. This can of course be interpreted in many ways. For example, an objectification or commodification of the female body, or a projection of the docile and giving nature of women. But I think that the connection between the body, landscape, and bounty of the land is more complicated. While reading, I was drawn to the use of the word “femme-jardin.” This designation seems to imply a view of the female body that is not bound by its corporality, but rather something in tune with rhythms of the earth. After her death and escape, Hadriana’s proclaimed liberty as a woman is tied to the environment: “Mes liens ont été resserrés pour toujours avec la mer, le ciel, les oiseaux, la pluie, les arbres, le vent. Mon sens vital s’est de même aiguisé pour la perception des humains et des animaux” (186). Her reinvigorated existence is evoked by landscape and the natural world. Conversely, that a woman’s body is often described as fruits and other natural elements instills landscape with a feminine essence. I don’t want to risk essentializing this view of a female body tied to nature as pure or good (nature is a commodity that can be exploited after all). But I do think that there is a powerful, almost mystical force inherent in a femininity tied to the natural world. I wonder, then, how the symbolic “femme-jardin” figure can be both tied to fetishization and liberation, especially in light of Haiti’s history of slavery that is rooted in the landscape?

    Eirann Cohen says:
  13. As others have commented, the voice of Hadriana at the end of the novel not only answers some of the mystery of the book and portrays Hadriana as a survivor who finds a new love of life. However, one thing that I struggled with while reading this section was how much Hadriana’s voice seemed to conform to Patrick’s ideal, which he had held onto for so many years. Despite her break from her captors and fleeing to Jamaica, it seemed to me that her story continued to be mediated through the desires of Patrick. Are women’s stories only believable through the voice of a male narrator?

    L.J. says:
  14. #CUDU Hello, I’m one of Laurent’s students in the Black Atlantic Seminar this semester. As a musicologist, I took notice to the musical language Depestre uses and how he juxtaposes European music with Haitian music in order to complicate the identity of Hadriana as a Haitian woman of European descent. The novel in itself is divided in such a way to mimic the three-movement symphony common in the early eighteenth century, of course until it became popular towards the end of the eighteenth century to divide symphonies into four movements, by using two fast movements fashioned around a slow movement in the middle. The first and third movements of the novel move quickly through time and rely heavily on the propelling motion of the wedding and funeral’s drama, while the second movement comes to a halt as Patrick debates how to approach the topic of Hadriana’s zombification. The intermingling and opposition of European and Haitian musical styles mirrors the conflicts between Catholicism and Vodou and European and Haitian identity.
    The first evocation of European music occurs in the beginning of Chapter Two within the editorial written about the upcoming nuptials: “Hadriana, the only daughter of the brilliant couple Denise and André Siloé, is the princely gift that the French nation of Debussy and Renoir has given to our country” (52). The mention of Debussy in context with Hadriana’s French heritage further separates her from the rest of Jacmel and, in the words of other commenters on here, “puts her on a pedestal.” The music of Debussy, an impressionistic composer, conjures a graceful and soft image, which could also further feminize the public perception of Hadriana. A second moment of European music occurs at the grave when Homaire plays Giuseppe Verdi’s “Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate,” a chorus sung by Hebrew slaves in F# major. Hadriana adds in her account that her mother played Verdi’s Nabucco several times on the piano. The translated libretto is:

    Go, thoughts, on golden wings;
    Go, settle upon the slopes and hills,
    where warm and soft and fragrant are
    the breezes of our sweet native land!
    Greet the banks of the Jordan,
    the towers of Zion …
    Oh my country so beautiful and lost!
    Or so dear yet unhappy!
    Or harp of the prophetic seers,
    why do you hang silent from the willows?
    Rekindle the memories within our hearts,
    tell us about the time that have gone by
    Or similar to the fate of Solomon,
    give a sound of lament;
    or let the Lord inspire a concert
    That may give to endure our suffering.

    Unlike the popular song sung by everyone at the end of Homaire’s performance, which expresses the town’s personal grief, “Va, pensiero” represents a “national” Jacmelian grief for their “fairy.” In other words, the European music used by Depestre is associated with the idealized version of Hadriana, while Haitian music represents another side of Hadriana as depicted in the last scene of the novel when she dances to the boaters’ improvised song on her way to a new life. Lastly, Hadriana’s Catholic funeral is a traditional church service with a Kyrie (113) and ends with the requiem’s Latin text (116) which correlates to the title of Chapter 4, “Requiem for a Creole Fairy.” Depestre would have also been familiar with the Dies Irae’s significance to French music used in Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique where the program suggests a supernatural bacchanale with witches.
    I could continue with other smaller mentions of Western art music, such as Lolita as a sensual soprano giving multiple orgasms (Wagnerian?) and the significance of “cosmic harmony” (103) to medieval and early Renaissance music, while also exploring the significance of Haitian carnival music and dance; regardless, Depestre’s use of European music in the context of the country of Haiti and the identity of Hadriana enriches the explicit dichotomy and implicit commingling of Haitian and French culture.

    Hannah Krall says:
  15. #CUDU In light of various works on Haitian history, culture, and Vodou that students in Dr. Laurent’s class have read, I necessarily situated Hadriana in All My Dreams as a work within this larger historiography. I asked, how do the works of Robert Farris Thompson’s Flash of the Spirit, Joan Dayan’s, Haiti, History, and the Gods, and Katherine Dunham’s, Island Possessed affect my reading of Depestre’s novel? How are the metaphors, and the overall story of Hadriana in my Dreams, representative of an interpretation of Haitian history and culture? Clearly, Depestre’s novel does not easily characterize Haitian cultural norms into general categories, of which Thompson has received criticism of doing. Dayan and Dunham’s approach to the subject of Haitian Vodou is more fluid, and largely rejects any academic inclination towards categorization. They employ an approach that attempts to capture the ‘essence’ of Haitian Vodou. It is this ‘essence’ that Depestre’s novel succeeds in bringing to life, with its eye toward mystery, possibility, and complexity. It explores the intricacies of racial perspectives of the time, of cultural clashing and mixing, and provides readers an example of ‘zombification’ as a topic much richer than what some Western conceptions hold.
    It is precisely because Hadriana in all My Dreams is fiction that its topics are better able to convey this message of complexity. Depestre covers important subjects in his novel, as mentioned above. Yet, it is their presentation as something of possibility rather than as examples of existing fact, that the reader’s mind is able to appreciate the richness of Haitian experiences in the 20th century. “It was all perfectly clear to them”, the narrator writes, “at both Hadriana’s wake and funeral, in the moving tribute to her beauty—that the “real” Haiti had been exposed.” (124) That Depestre’s situates a “real” Haiti into his work at a moment where life, love, and death come together, may be an attempt to refuse categorization of an Haitian experience as some result of a general source of anxiety or mythologizing. Several intellectual responses, from within activist, academic, and other places, have attempted to understand Haitian culture. Their attempts, however, have rarely received total praise for accuracy in representation. Perhaps the theme of zombification, then, as it is employed in the novel, assumes the role of explaining this painful—read zombified—process, which conceals a powerful intellectual resilience beneath. Depestre’s novel reads, “But despite these outward signs of death, the zombie actually retains the use of his or her mental faculties.” 128 The complex history of Haiti, its people, and culture live on despite the never-ending attempts made to understand it.
    Historians, it may be true, are wedded to that which they can prove. A novel, Depestre’s work perhaps does not aim to prove any conceptualization of Haitian culture in particular. However, because of the limitless opportunities that its fictive style provides, it gestures towards a humanist approach to Haitian history. Read together with other major works on Haitian Vodou, culture, and history, Depestre’s work complements the major insights we have come to understand that claim to represent Haiti’s past.

    Chris Culton says:
  16. Hi everyone,

    I’m one of Laurent’s students in Black Atlantic. Apologies in advance for the long and chaotic nature of this post; I’ve just finished the novel and am still processing! #CUDU

    I’ve noticed that Depestre’s poignant spatial imagery related to the cosmic/existential trop-plein of vodou mysteries pivots on interiority and exteriority (enclosure and openness) but also on ambiguous inversion, mirroring, and doubling… Hadriana’s lived experience of “le temps et l’espace existentiels du zombie” (140) reveals her state of incomplete zombification to be a productive abyss that queers and disorders, generating chaotic/erotic patterns of doubling and mutations of body/self.

    I am still trying to work through one of these instances: the encounter between Hadriana and the manifestation of the vierge noire d’Altagracia at her carnival-funeral-marriage. Both Hadriana and the stranger are at some point in the novel figured as incarnations of Ezili Freda, lwa associated with mirrors, excess, seduction, and unbounded erotic love. The vèvè of Hadriana’s vagina (“vulve-soleil,” 76) seems to serve as a mirror for Hatuey-Freda: « L’éblouissante Freda découvrit le dessin érotique… Elle eut l’air de reconnaitre dans le vèvè la lumière génitale de sa propre boite aux rêves » (80). To further complicate this mystical refraction, Hatuey-Freda becomes Hadriana’s mirror as the latter narrates the view from behind her Sleeping Beauty mask:

    « J’ai vu l’inconnue, Noire d’une extrême beauté, enlever son voile et se diriger nue vers mon cercueil […] de gros tétés gonfles de vie et de lyrisme, ronds, fermes, en suspens sur mon abime affamé, j’ai reconnu mes propres mamelons déguisés en seins de négresse au carnaval de mon mariage » (178).

    In this event, through a series of (auto-erotic?) recognitions, the bodies of Hatuey-Freda and Hadriana-Freda would seem to be refracted across the vèvè; through this perverting mirror/dedoublement, both become divine through an excess of sex organs and shared erotic movements. This multiplied/mutated movement, eventually expressed through two bodies (both unambiguously portrayed as incarnated essences of whiteness and blackness), is not unimportant because it is the same movement that aids Hadriana in her flight from her captors: « je cheminais à ce pas allongé, souple, négligemment onduleux et chaloupé, que j’avais appris dès mon enfance des canéphores noires de la vallée de Jacmel » (203).

    So the movement that saves the reembodied Hadriana is a mimetic movement! Although her escape is attributed by Patrick to a bourgeois conception of athleticism, Hadriana’s fugitive movements are not her own but those of black women carrying loads up the mountain. They are also the same movements as Hatuey-Freda’s in her dance– Depestre even uses the same adjective, “chaloupé”: « les formes nues imitaient à la perfection la course chaloupée d’un bateau de rêve » (80).

    I have many questions about zombies and possession and sociogeny… First, how do Hatuey-Freda’s movements in/through Hadriana’s body go beyond mimicry or appropriation of racialized corporealities? Through near-zombification, Hadriana escapes sociogenic imprisonments of her body as simultaneously oversexed and frozen in conformity with phallocentric conceptions of purity/beauty. But does Depestre’s confusion/rapprochement of Freda’s two bodies suggest that through « manipulations magico-génétiques » (137) Hadriana somehow escapes whiteness (while retaining its privilege)? Can we read Hadriana’s flight into the mountains and away from her captors as a mirror/distortion (perversion?) of an act of marronnage?

    (There is also the question of of Hadriana’s mythological multiplied vagina, often figured through vodou language of twins: « Bonjour baubo de reine Erzili-Fréda ! La mariée à un loa-marassa-blanc sous ses voiles ! …Pommes jumelles, étoffe a deux endroits, salut oh ! » (197); « de toute ma bouche à quatre levres j’ai hurle le Oui final… » (159) What is this chaotic excess of pleasure—(how) is it related to the other Freda?—and what does it do to/for the self behind the sociogenic Sleeping Beauty mask of white femininity?)

    Isabel Bradley says:
  17. Hi all,
    I’m a student in Laurent’s class, participating in #CUDU

    Reading Hadriana danstous mes rêves was an experience in the various perspectives in which a text might be read, and how my different identities as scholar and reader—which themselves are manifold—informed my reading of this novel.

    To me, Hadriana’s story was the most character driven part of the novel. We get a glimpse of her emotions, her desires, how she perceives herself, and how the experience of zombification changed her. This was the part that I experienced as reader, perhaps the only time where I fully identified the text as fiction, as a novel in which I could sympathize with, even experience emotional attachment towards, the character of Hadriana and feeling invested in what would become of her. So much so that I felt put off by the very last section, numbered 16, which in the very last moment of the novel took me out of her story. I would have preferred it to end with Hadriana’s final and powerful assertion that she was “une femme amoureuse à en mourir de la vie.” Nevertheless, as others have mentioned, whether Hadriana’s voice is her own and untainted by Patrick’s perspective is another matter altogether.

    The fact that this third part was what felt most like a novel to me isn’t to say that I wasn’t as compelled by the rest of the text, but rather that I read it in a different way. Up until the third movement, I experienced this text, first and foremost, as a historian. I read the first two parts as being, above anything else, about Haiti, and saw the characters as devices through which Depestre could showcase many facets of Haitian culture, going way beyond simply vaudou beliefs and rites. Jacmel, and Haiti itself, come alive on the page; the landscape, customs, food, dress, amongst many other elements, are constantly in focus. I was, admittedly, much more interested in this aspect than I was in the characters at this stage. Even Patrick, our narrator, is not particularly well fleshed out outside of his desire for Hadriana.

    Throughout, a third type of reading persisted, driven by my broader interest in sexuality, particularly, because of the context of this book, its relationship to Catholicism and various other belief systems—in this case, vaudou. This is of course intertwined with the idea of sin, which I found particularly interesting, perhaps best represented by Hadriana’s internal musings about how she should not be considered a saint because of her own erotic desires and sexual activities. Another point of interest was that the relationship between life (or, rather, aliveness) and sexuality was reiterated throughout, and the relationship between death and sexuality was also an important theme that would be worthy of further reflection.

    I think there could also be something to be said about the figure of the white woman ultimately being Othered by her community, and I felt that Hadriana’s desperate flight from Rosanfer was almost a mirror of the experience of a runaway slave. What are the implications of portraying a white woman in such a manner?

    Nova Déjardin says:
    1. Totally agree with you, Nova, about the third part feeling like a novel! I wonder if it’s to do with character–Hadriana’s motivations/feelings/wants are much more deeply rendered than Patrick’s, who doesn’t even get a name until much later in the narrative! The first two movements do, then, feel much more within the realm of exposition/visual storytelling…I really like the idea of reading for “history.” For my own field, it felt like reading for craft/literary value.

      Anya Lewis-Meeks says:
  18. Hi everyone,
    I am one of the students in Dr. Dubois’ “Black Atlantic” class. Here’s my post for everyone’s review:

    Syncretistic Christianity in Jacmel: The Mixing of Christianity with Racism and Classism (#CUDU)

    As a theology and ethics student, I was naturally drawn to the religious themes in the novel. In the first place, I was interested in how Christianity (Jacmelian Catholicism) negotiated the structures of racism and classism at play in Jacmel, and more generally, Haiti. Following Hadriana’s “false death” at the wedding altar, the narrator tells us “from that moment on, there began a pitiless battle between the two belief systems that have long gone head-to-head in the Haitian imagination: Christianity and Vodou (pg. 67).” The narrative pertaining to the conflict between the two religions over the appropriate burial rituals for Hadriana gives a snapshot of how Christianity and Vodou are configured in the Haitian imagination. As it turns out, Christianity defines itself as enlightened and debonair over and against Vodou, which is marked out as backward and entirely bereft of theological utility. The Jacmelian elite mostly identified with Christianity, whereas the plebeian’s identified with Vodou. Reacting against this racist and elitist system of classification, Depestre constructs Hadriana as a body who problematizes and subverts this binary. Hadriana’s family belonged to the elite class and therefore worshiped with the Catholic church, yet Hadriana, in her words, proudly proclaims: “even in my coffin I was far closer to a carnival drum than to the tolling of church bells (pg. 207).” Thus, in the figure of Hadriana, the Vodou assumes the fairest, most beautiful, and the most sophisticated.

    Secondly, Depestre’s novel complexifies and upsets the tacit profane/impure and sacred/pure dichotomy in Jacmelian Christianity. We see this complexification in the range of meanings given to Hadriana’s virginity. For Jacmelian Catholics, Hadriana’s saintliness and purity was rooted in her virginity. This is a purity or saintliness that is defined as self-enclosure and the maintenance of the boundary between the pure and impure. The purity as the maintenance-of-boundary logic explains Father Maxitel’s confrontation with Maitre Homaire, whom Maxitel accused of profaning “Saint Hadriana” (pg. 87 and 207). Hence, Hadriana’s virginity had eternal value in the eyes of Jacmelian Catholics. In contrast, for the Vodou devotees, Hadriana’s virginity at the time of death was cause for lament and not celebration. The Vodou devotees, as represented by Homaire, lamented Hadriana’s virginity made her an easy target for preying spirits who may yet defile her beautiful innocence before Hadriana arrives before God (pg. 75). Therefore, they prescribed taking Hadriana’s corpse through the so called “sacred deflowering” ritual. Here we see virginity and purity becomes a means to an end: the purpose of opening oneself up to intimate relations with others. Consequently, for the Vodou devotees, Hadriana’s eternal security did not ultimately depend on her self-enclosure – the maintenance of boundaries – but on her capacity to be open and intimate with others.

    The rigid and unnuanced demarcation between the pure and impure in Jacmelian Catholicism did not just organized female bodies, but it had implications for the missiological understanding and methods of the Catholic church. Because Jacmelian Catholicism defined itself over and against Vodou, the church defined faithfulness as the maintenance of the boundary between Christianity and Vodou. This meant that Jacmelian drums were not welcome into the Christian worship space. A case in point is that Hadriana’s wedding and funeral carnivals were held outside the walls of the Catholic church. Only the bells, which represented a distinctly traditional Euro-American worship experience was welcomed into the Catholic church space. With Jacmelian Catholic authorities regarding the maintenance of boundaries as normative for true faith and faithfulness, Vodou which by its very definition is syncretistic and open to dialogue with other faith practices, was denigrated as faithless and pagan. Ironically, the unprincipled commingling or close association between Jacmelian Catholicism and Jacmelian racist and elitist modes of organizing life meant Jacmelian Catholicism was also profoundly syncretistic. In other words, Jacmelian Catholicism had carefully maintained its boundaries against Vodou, but had uncritically accepted and indeed incorporated the assumptions of Jacmelian racism and classism into its form of Christianity.

    Finally, I was also interested in how theological ideas concerning the afterlife shaped Jacmelian politics. While Christianity guarantees the liberation/resurrection of the oppressed and the dead through a future and apocalyptic closure to history as we know it, there is an immediacy to Jacmelian Vodou which suits the needs of the disenfranchised in Jacmelia. As Martin Luther King Jr. suggested in “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” those in power tend to defer the liberation of the oppressed to an indefinite future because time is their friend. Zombification therefore becomes a polemic against the idea of a disempowering future orientation. Consequently, Hadriana’s zombification instantiates a disruption in the politics of linear time: a fantastical seizing of political agency (the control of the order of life and death) in the here and now.

    Jackson Adamah says:
  19. Hi everyone,

    I am also a student in Laurent Dubois’ Black Atlantic course. In reading this text, I was often struck by the way that time operates. In her zombification/afterlife, Hadriana narrates the story of her fake death and the impact that it had on the community, however, this is not important in the “historical record” of Jacmel laments in the second part. It caused me to ask the question whether the things that scholars deem important through verifiable sources are the things that shape the daily lives of people. Or is memory and the omnipresent nature of memory the driving force in people’s understanding of the world. Also, in this book it seems that instead of vodou and Christianity being diametrically opposed, they often have a sort of symbiotic relationship within the context of the nation. Both religions reflect the legacies of a post colonial world as people attempt to make meaning out of everyday existence. #CUDU

    Joshua Strayhorn says:
  20. #CUDU

    I really appreciate that Régine brought up the moment in Hadriana’s narrative in which Hadriana recalls the taking of her pulse. At first, I had not stopped to consider this moment, but on reflection, this is such a clear moment of conflict between Hadriana’s own bodily experience and the disillusioned experiencing of her body by a third party.

    The doctors take Adriana’s pulse to determine whether or not she has passed, but continue to be distracted by her body (particularly her breasts). This echoes Hadriana’s earlier statement: “I was suffocating under my veil. My father, though right by my side, noticed nothing…No one noticed what state I was in.” These reflections by Hadriana reminded me of two novels I read this past week, Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man, and Ann Petry’s The Street. In The Street, Petry’s narrator, a young black woman living in Harlem reflects on a newspaper article. Petry writes:

    “She held the paper in her hand for a long time, trying to follow the reasoning by which that thin ragged boy had become in the eyes of a reporter a ‘burly Negro.’ And she decided that it all depended on where you sat how these things looked. If you looked at them from inside the framework of a fat weekly salary, and you thought of colored people as naturally criminal, then you didn’t really see what any Negro looked like…The reporter saw a dead Negro who had attempted to hold up a store, and so he couldn’t really see what the man lying on the sidewalk looked like. He couldn’t see the ragged shoes, the thin, starved body. He saw, instead, the picture he already had in his mind.”

    Similarly, in the prologue to Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison famously writes: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me…When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”

    Looking at Hadriana’s narrative through this lense of negation, invisibility and projection, how might Hadriana’s community be seeing “instead, the picture they already had in their mind?” Though Hadriana has partially left her body, her death is incorrectly declared. How might this image that they have of her, how might her false death, connect to the other desires or pictures they have in their mind of her? It seems that Hadriana’s death functions in two ways for the community; firstly, it permits the survival of her idolization. Secondly, the community’s interest and authority over her body are taken to finality–Hadriana is fully giving herself away and surrendering all bodily autonomy.

    Zora Casebere says:
  21. #CUDU
    In the Third Movement, it struck me that although Hadriana was central to the narrative, this moment was the first time she came to center-stage. Whether coming out to the car with the corpse at the outset, watching her go to the church or having her centered, but closed in her calafaque, Hadriana had no voice until page 189. Once she is narrating, she only possesses the power of movement and speech for three pages before she is rendered immobile and mute by the drugs. It is only in the final 15 pages of the novel that Hadriana is an active character in the novel of which she is the titular character. Why did Depestre make this choice? Perhaps this makes the novel even more fairy tale-esque since readers are given the “Once upon a time” remove from Hadriana, viewing most of the action through the eyes of Patrick, an adult reflecting on his childhood.

    Clare Marie says:
  22. #CUDU

    Hi all, I’m Anya, a student in Professor Dubois’ class. I have to admit that I was was far less interested in the first two parts of “Hadriana, in all my dreams” than in the third movement. I know this because in the first two movements I noted interesting themes–the development of collective memory, the way time moves in the novel, the unusual chimeric form (a term coined by Professor Vadde, here at Duke!), etc. In the third movement, all of that fell away. Here I was reading for plot, mystery, sex, the sheer fun of it all.

    It has been well documented that the strength Hadriana’s voice is key to the success of her movement. Patrick, even as he grows older and becomes an academic, (interested in Levi-Strauss and Sartre, nonetheless…should he be teaching at Duke?) is unreasonably tethered to Hadriana, to the mystery of his youth. His lust for Hadriana pains him throughout his life, until, eventually, he manages to find sexual solace (maybe even satisfaction?) in teaching his female Jamaican students. Only for Hadriana to then return!

    Hadriana, on the other hand, feels the sublimated lust of Patrick equally acutely, but she feels pleasure too. Although she longingly regrets the inability (unwillingness?) of Patrick and Hector to “deflower” her (I too noted the excellent nature imagery/puns employed by Depestre and Glover in her translation) she has sex with her best friend, Lolita Philsbourg. We get, perhaps, the most explicit rendering of sex after the initial story of Balthazar Granchire:

    “The black-and-purple coal of my seventeen-year-old sex cried out in the burning embers of her caresses. I was electrified by her mouth on my peach, riper than any other fruit in season, be it Haitian mango or French melon. It was incredible, Father, hearing the song of the birds outside as Lolita cultivated my springtime garden. It was wonderful, delivering my enflamed Creole flower, my untamed love box, to my best friend’s tongue, as she brought me dizzyingly to seventh heaven with three, five up to seven orgasms in a row on that blessed day.” (Depestre 208)

    There’s a version of an essay about this scene that holds representations of queer sex against heterosexual sex, one that questions the ‘virginity’ construct and its metaphysical considerations, one that compares the trifecta of White Creole Women (Hadriana, Antoinette and…Edna maybe?) and representations of their sexualities flowering in the tropical Caribbean, in conflict with the vision of the chaste white European woman. This is not that essay (maybe I will even write it!. Rather, it’s an assertion that, failed marriage, successful zombification, mad dash for escape and potential marronage (thanks, Isabelle!) aside (or perhaps…because of?) Hadriana, in all her dreams, had a hell of a lot of fun.

    Anya Lewis-Meeks says:
  23. Hi all,

    I’m a student in Laurent’s class on the Black Atlantic, participating in #CUDU.

    I’ve been particularly drawn to and interested by the first chapter of movement 3, which is of course actually Chapter Six: Hadriana’s Tale. First of all, I find the layering of narrative organisation very generative—first of all, by refusing traditional chronological novel structure, Depestre disrupts linear, progressive European chronological models of story-telling. Second, by restarting the numerical count within each movement and chapter, the narrative model more closely resembles a spiral than the ascending arrow or U-shape of European literary traditions. It seems particularly important in this chapter, when Hadriana finally expresses her being. I’m hesitant to use the world subjectivity, which might assume a subject/object division that doesn’t occur naturally in Haitian culture or Depestre’s cosmology.

    Shifting now to consider the content of the chapter, I was struck that the first words uttered from Hadriana’s perspective, in her own voice, are the words “I died.” The words themselves perform the ambivalence of the “zombie” figure, as explained in Professor Glover’s article. The words should be impossible, since death should mean the end of speech/being/identification/self-reflection. The utterance demonstrates Hadriana’s occupation of the liminal space between life and death, that she lived beyond her death:

    “I died on the night of the most beautiful day of my life: I died on the night of my marriage in the Saint Philippe and Saint Jacques Church.”

    Near the end of the chapter, Hadriana reveals that she had been dying long before her “false death.” She details that she was dying before the moment of her death; in her story, she started dying thirty minutes before her “yes.” However, the details reveal a more ambiguous timeline (in my opinion)—”I couldn’t breathe. I was suffocating under my veil… No one noticed the state that I was in.” The veil, theoretically, symbolises the space between life and death and her objectification by the community as an ideal(ized) virginal figure, which alienated her from her community: “the zombie function as a catalyzing metaphor for considering questions of community-building and alienation in an economically, politically, and even psychically fractured society” (Glover 121). Professor Glover further explains that the “zombie’s fundamental ambivalence imbues it with a potential for resistance… that nuances the binary opposition described Antoine or Lucas… [it exists] outside of the ‘oppositional paradigm…” (120-121). In the intersection of the zombie figure and gender politics, I think Hadriana complicates the usefulness of the gender trope; the ambivalence of the zombie as Hadriana creates the conditions of possibility for the deconstruction of the gender binary, and the gendered social expectations specific to Haitian communities.

    Nasanin Rosado says:
  24. Hello Everyone,

    My name is Reina Henderson and I’m one of Laurent Dubois’s Black Atlantic students. #CUCU

    This third movement, for me, was the most compelling of all as it centers on Hadriana’s own voice and perspective reflecting her own thoughts of the changes she experiences to her existence and her womanhood throughout her ordeal. She is thoroughly aware of herself and provides depth to the situation she finds herself in and her presence within it. She asserts herself and her existence beyond her circumstances and instead we, as readers, are made to contend with her own interpretations of the past events not simply as commentary but as the central voice. It is she and her insistence which commands this as opposed to what the reader or even the author may hope would be brought out.

    I also greatly admired Depestre’s skill in how he characterized her distinct and powerful voice, as it is often an interesting instance when male writers describe and give voice to their female characters. Although it is often necessary to understand how a writer’s perspective influences that of their characters, with a special point of note in this instance with men writing women or women writing men and how the author’s perspective is presented through that dynamic, I found Despestre’s effort to be one of the best that I’d read that not only allowed Hadriana to come across not only in a way that I understand of a woman’s perspective but to be quite significantly relatable to me *as* a woman myself. A welcome surprise from my first encounter with this author and novels of this kind.

    Though my background is rooted in history to the point of choosing to pursue it academically and professionally, literature is, as it has always been, my other great love. I was so excited to have the opportunity to read a novel as an assignment and complicate my gaze as a training historian through it.

    Reina says:
  25. #CUDU

    For me, the arrival of the third movement was a huge relief – finally, we get to hear Hadriana’s voice! Yet in what sense can we say that it’s her voice, as it’s mediated through and embedded in Patrick’s narrative? How would the novel (or rather two-novels-in-one) have been different had it been structured more evenly and/or polyphonically, for example with one chapter in Hadriana’s point of view, followed by Patrick’s, followed by another character’s, etc.?

    Hiding and then bringing in Hadriana’s voice at the end necessarily constructs a temporality for readers that differs from that of the characters. I would even go so far as to say that the third movement was the moment when Hadriana started to exist. Even though in the previous two movements she is the focus, even the obsession of the narrator, somehow she felt extremely distant because I didn’t get a sense of her personality or consciousness.

    Even before I found out about Depestre’s close involvement with Pablo Neruda in Chile, as I was reading the first two movements I couldn’t help but think of Neruda’s poem “Juegas todos los días” (Every day you play) in Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (1924), published when Neruda was 19. It’s a poem with which I have a love-hate relationship, because it is stunningly beautiful but also terribly violent. He writes, “Ah déjame recordarte cómo eras entonces, cuando aún no existías.” (Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.) Remembering Hadriana…or fantasizing about her? Just as Neruda’s lover – whose worshiped body merges into mother earth and the cosmos – is abstracted away into non-existence, Hadriana is a myth: a saint, a virgin, “l’étoile qui n’a brillé qu’une fois,” as we are constantly reminded throughout the novel. In particular, this passage from Movement 3, Chapter 6, Part 4 – where Hadriana is describing how her body is handled after she “dies” – struck me as particularly violent:

    — Les seins sont encore tièdes. Fruits frais et superbes ! On les dirait vivants !
    — L’étoile qui meurt brille longtemps après, mon cher ! Regardez les yeux.
    Le docteur Braget a écarté mes paupières. Je l’ai vu : son regard ardent de chat marron, embué de larmes, ne m’a pas vue !

    As Professor Jean-Charles so beautifully wrote in her response that Hadriana is “simultaneously visible and invisible,” it occurred to me that this failure to really *see* Hadriana past all of the eulogizing sighs, worshipping of her body, and Patrick’s desire to inscribe her forever in the history of Jacmel might be read as a second round of zombification. The fantasizing, dreaming gaze fossilizes her, makes her unreal, turns her into a frozen beauty: a picture-perfect virgin zombie bride in the garden of Eden, flesh ripe and ready to be consumed even in death.

    Sophia Mo says:
  26. #CUDU
    When thinking about Hadriana’s voice, I compare it to the voices of the previous movements that took charge to tell her story, which I keep thinking of as forming something like a Greek chorus. Patrick’s perspective is a vessel for the fragmented story that comes from many voices, all of whom are deeply invested in Hadriana, and none of whom have the full picture (eg, 114). Speaking is an act of power (significant that Hadriana’s only word up until she tells her story is the word of acquiescence, “oui”), and the hundreds of voices of Jacmel don’t hesitate to cry out in glorious voices above her for celebration, and cry out in “grief and dismay” upon seeing that their star is dead. Cases for what to do with her body are present with “vigor” and there is drawn-out contention. Hands don’t cease to touch her even after her false-death.

    Only after she is abandoned in the ground, enfermée in her her body which failed to serve its duty as a sacrificial object for the community whose adoration for her runs as deep—or rather, shallow—as her skin, is she left the sole inhabitant of her body and is given room to tell her story. It’s here that the narrative perspective sheds its fragments and yields authority to the I.

    In the chapter “Lovers” from Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood, Adriana Cavarero mentions the unseemliness of the “I” in narrative, especially when there is the goal of social change. I was interested in how “unseemly” Hadriana’s I was, and what it achieved with its unseemliness.

    In the process of taking ownership of her “I”, Hadriana reveals her acute awareness of both what goes on inside her body and outside. In this novel, at least, this I is a disruptive force for the narrative, for the community’s peace, for Rosanfer.

    In contrast to the Jacmel whole, Hadriana approaches her sexual experiences not only with acknowledgement but with frank acceptance. Jacmel’s denial of its eroticism brought about what we could call its downfall, and Hadriana’s acknowledgement of her eroticism—her I which has so far been so defined by sex and purity—leads to her escape.

    This escape is not only leaving the shackles of her dead self and the grave, but also the island that has buried her. This echoes emancipation on a few levels. However, Depestre’s end for Hadriana’s story leaves her in an eerily similar position in a community as that where she began. How are we supposed to read the supposedly assuring “Vous ne nous devez rien”? Her new “people” respond “in chorus”.

    Kimberly Liu says:
  27. Hi all,

    I’m one of Professor Glover’s students participating in the #CUDU conversation. In reading the comments and replies I was especially struck by Professor Jean-Charles’s final paragraph: “Lastly, I wondered about the love story aspect of the novel. Colin Dayan has noted, the reason why Depestre and Gallimard did not want to give Rouch the rights to the film was because they feared he would elide the love story. Do we agree that Hadriana in All My Dreams is truly a love story? And if so, what kind of love and between whom?”

    Reading “The Uses of the Erotic” in Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider greatly changed by perception of Hadriana dans tous mes rêves in that it illustrated, for me, different ways this novel is truly a love story. Lorde describes the erotic as “a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual place, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling” (87). In thinking about this definition of the erotic, we can see, in at least the third movement of this novel, that Hadriana is the embodiment of the erotic. Thinking about this in terms of a Survivor Narrative, as Professor Jean-Charles points out, allows us to understand Hadriana’s will to live as the source of her power. This same will to live is Hadriana’s realization of the erotic.

    I’d like to illustrate that the erotic is not necessarily inextricably linked to the romantic, and in Lorde’s definition of it, the erotic is rather linked to self-realization and power that comes from within each of us, especially women. We see this in the third movement as Hadriana is finally given voice to tell her own story. A story which includes a long solo sojourn to Jamaica before reuniting with Patrick *decades* later. So in this way, the most erotic part of Hadriana’s story is her realization de soi, her solo journey, her actualization of herself. This story becomes a more “traditional” love story only after she has lived a complete life on her own. It then becomes a love story of two equals: Patrick and Hadriana, not Patrick and Hadriana-from-Patrick’s-Dreams.

    In this way, Lorde’s conclusions about the true nature of the erotic come to fruition in Depsestre’s novel. In the first two movements, Hadriana is a fantasy. Patrick uses her as, in Lorde’s words, an “object of satisfaction.” It is only because of Hadriana’s independence and will to live that a love story of a different nature (Lorde’s erotic) is able to emerge. Patrick and Hadriana are able to “share [their] joy in the satisfying,” (Lorde 91) because Hadriana is finally able to exist outside a fantasy in the final movement.

    Victoria Cheff says:
  28. I would like to respond to the comments about the female depiction and nature. Fruits are often used to describe female inner beauty because of their “freshness”. In this novel when Patrick compared veiled Hadriana with veiled Mona Lisa, he thought that the beauty of Hadriana “was a fruit bursting with freshness that any eager mouth would have longed to bite to the point of ecstasy.” However Mona Lisa was “without the slightest bit of inner passion”. (108) This kind of “freshness”, “inner passion” is also what the zombies lack – due to the absence of the petit bon ange, the latter lose their imagination, emotion and inner force.

    Also fruits are be used in some erotic depictions, sometimes in the case of lesbian desire. For instance, when Hadriana was with Lolita, she became the subject of desire instead of object. She said: “I was electrified by her mouth on my peach, riper than any other fruit in season, be it Haitian mango or French melon.”(207) The erotic here is linked with the passion of love.

    In terms of the “femme-jardin”, in the beginning the editor Népomucène Homaire said Hadriana is “the princely gift that the French nation of Debussy and Renoir has given to our country…Hadriana dizzyingly incarnates the ideal of the femme-jardin that a local poet came up with long ago as a tribute to our Zaza.” The expression of “femme-jardin” often appears in some artist works such as paintings, (for example Monet’s « Dame en blanc au jardin », Van Gogh’s « Femme dans un jardin »), where we can find the presentation of beautiful women and landscape. The use of “femme-jardin”, “Debussy”, “Renoir” can be considered as a fantasy and imagination about Hadriana’s noble and ideal image.

    Peipei says:

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