By Edward Nawotka
The publishing industry has certainly done its part to help Haiti, donating half a million dollars to relief agencies in the days following the disaster, there have been charity books, and more. But one of the issues is that it seems that the writing about the island that draws the most attention underscores the misery, deprivation and its contentious history — not to mention exacerbating perception that the island is cursed, the people practice voodoo and the country is populated with no small number of zombies (We can thank William B. Seabrook’s book The Magic Island and Maya Deren’s The Divine Horesman for getting that started).
But, say the writers from Haiti — such as Edwidge Dandicat and those at this past weekend’s Etonnants Voyageurs festival in France (as discussed in our lead article today) — there are many more sides to the country, and in particular, want to point out that the island is not in fact cursed.
Certainly writers, such as Madison Smartt Bell who has written a trilogy of novels about the island (All Souls Rising, Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That The Builder Refused) as well as Toussaint Louverture: A Biography, have offered sensitive portraits of the place, but why don’t we have more Haitian voices speaking up for themselves? Is it merely an issue of translation, the fact that they write in French? Or is it simply more commercial to stick to the cliched storyline?
Let us know what you think in the comments.