Memory at bay by Évelyne Trouillot


Memory at bay by Évelyne Trouillot

Haitian fiction

Original title – La mémoire aux abois

Translator – Paul Curtis Daw

Source – review copy

Mwen tap rainmin konnin, date and jou ‘map mouri … Yeah! Wyclef Jean misie Refugee, Muzion If you had 24 hours to live, and you knew you were going to die what would you do? [Wyclef:] Yo, if I had left it just 24 hours to live I would go see my mother to tell her she me well high, her son, she can be proud Let me addresses thief, murderer She not loose, for that, I ‘ will kiss A kiss on the forehead and then in the street I’m returned two hours and a half, I called Jerry Duplessis J’dit to come get me, m’deposer Among my Mam’selle in her dress is so niceShe said ‘Wyclef, will eat at TapTap.’ ‘I said j’pas can because tomorrow j’serai not! J’viens only thank you from the bottom of heart Because with everything I did you would spend the m’quitter you, go elsewhere You’re a beautiful woman, no need to cry when I’m gonna go, you can t’remarier Mwen tap rainmin konnin, date and jou ‘map mouri … [Chorus:] And if you had 24 hours to live Would you sing? Would you dance? Would you cry? Or said: oh no I wanna leave me or said oh no I wanna go away! Imposs!

This is a translation of 24 heures a Vivre ,24 hours to live from a ep wyclef Jean did for Haiti he ran for president himself in 2010 .I connect the line I would see my mother as this is what the daughter in this book can’t do.


I was contacted by Paul the translator of this book as he had seen on the blog, I had reviewed two other books from Haiti and would I like to review this one. Evelyne Trouillot is a member of a literary family, her uncle was a historian and her brother Lyonel is a well-known novelist and her other brother is a leading Creole scholar. This book won the Prix Carbet a prize award to new voices and books from the Caribbean.

I head home with the smell of the old woman’s wthered flesh on my fingers. The vision of her form sprawled limply on the bed like a nameless doll accompanies me through the streets of Paris, Why had they added that room to my list ?

“whatever you do, mademoiselle, don’t reveal he name no one should know who she is. Besides we have no official confirmation. I thought you were only a child when you left your country

She is given the woman to look after thinking she wouldn’t remember her own past having left as a child!!

Memory at bay is both the story of two woman one an elderly widow, the former wife of the dictator who ran Haiti for the middle part of the 20th century Papa Doc a name that rings of blood and death. She is lying in a hospital bed dying as she does reliving her life. She is being watched over by a young nurse who escaped from Haiti to France and became a nurse, but along the way she lost her own mother to the regime of the woman she is looking after. As the book unfolds, we see both woman’s story told as we see both sides of this brutal regime. As the brutal years of the Papa doc reign are seen from the wife of the leader and the everybody in the form of  a mother and daughter who have to live under the regime.The daughter escapes and becomes the nurse but before she loses her mother she meets the old woman and a young woman and wife of the leader.

On my return to France, while I struggled to recover from my fatigue, the disturbing dreams began their nightly visitations. Soon afterward, as if to give substance to the macabre atomsphere that surrounded me, I first enter that woman’s room and encountered a face that was so recognizable, despite the ravages inflicted by exile and old age. That face today epitomizes for me all the horrors od a regime that left its grim mark on my native country

She met her as a schoolgirl and even now knows the faces of the old lady even thou she is losing her mind.

This is a book about what is memory, What is history as we see two sides of the same time told. Can we forgive those who do us harm ? What happens when we have to care for those who may have been connected to those that do use harm this young woman has all this on her mind as she cares for the older dying woman at times she wants to kill her. This is a powerful look at Haiti’s past, I remember the downfall of his sons regime baby doc when I was younger and the telling at that time of the brutal nature of his fathers regime. Evelyne has strung together two main characters and narraf=tives that bring both the overview of what happened but also the inner workings of day to day life.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Oct 29, 2015 @ 11:44:11

    Thanks for letting us know about this one Stu, it sounds like an important read and a worthy prizewinner. There are a number of interesting books that give a women’s insight into life in this area that are rapidly creating an excellent collection. Thanks for reviewing and sharing it.


  2. jeff_lyn
    Oct 29, 2015 @ 22:51:32

    Sounds great might have to find a copy, like you I have enjoyed a few Haitian novels and am always on the lookout out for more. Thanks.


  3. anafichesdelectures
    Oct 31, 2015 @ 23:36:11

    So hard to find the French edition of her books from the US…


  4. Trackback: Woman in translation reviews from Sept 15 to July 16 | Winstonsdad's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

October 2015


%d bloggers like this: