Does Publishing Exacerbate the Cliche that Haiti is Cursed?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

the magic island

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 RisingMaster 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.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.