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.

The colour of Dawn by Yanick Lahens

the colour of dawn

The colour of Dawn by Yanick Lahens

Haitian fiction

Original title –  La Couleur de l’aube

Translator – Alison Layland

Source – review copy

You better run You better run and run and run
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge

You stand before your maker
In a state of shame
because your robes are covered in mud
While your kneel at the feet
Of a woman of the street
The gutters will run with blood
They will run with blood!

I thought this Nick Cave lyric caught the journey of the girls so well .source



Well I have only read one other book from Haiti on the blog ,that is the Alphabet of the night by Jean Euphele-Milche ,but that was over four years ago and I had always intend to try another from book from Haiti ,so when this dropped through the letter box from Seren with another book from their Seren discoveries series ,i was pleased as it also ties nicely into Women in translation month as Yanick Lahens is a female writer ,born in Haiti ,she left to study in France at the Sorbonne ,she return to Haiti where she teaches at the university and worked on projects for a foundation that helps the young people of Haiti get on with their lives amid the violence that sometimes surround in their everyday lives  ,like in this book .

All night my eyes peered into the shadows .All night my ears strained to hear the crackling of gunfire in the distance – something you always want to imagine distant ,very distant .Until that day when death comes ,bleeding to our door .Untill the day it splatters our walls like the others ,I am waiting

Waiting for their brother in the opening lines a reflection on their everyday life .

The colour of dawn is a story of siblings ,a brother  Fignolé a young man who is both a musician and an out spoken voice of his generation ,his two sister Joyeuse and Angelique one with a child that has found god ,the other is just discovering her self as a women  .Are worried when their brother disappears .So the two young sister set off through the city ,through their eyes as they hunt their brother we see the city as both a place when people know one another but also a much darker violent side that is just below the surface .Fignolé sings about the rebel cause ,he has spoken to foreign journalists ,has this landed him in trouble ,the sister need to find out and only have one day to do so .

I’ve been worried about Fignolé for too long , not because he smokes joints ,not at all ,but because of what these joints could lead him to do .I worry myself sick because of his music ,because of his rebelliousness .Because of everything that gets all mixed up and makes too much sense .The music won’t tear down walls ,Fignolé.

His music worries them ,why hasn’t he come home .

The story is told by the sister ,with frequent flashbacks on their past .Although they tell the story another main character is the city itself Port-au-Prince that comes to life of the pages .Yanick works with the young people of this city you feel the three siblings make up three faces of Modern Haitian youth ,one fighting for his freedom against the poverty of the city ,another finding god through a local priest and the last just discovering sex and maybe on a path but she is now just focused on her brother .I was reminded of films like city of god ,in parts of this book as the girls move through the city and see the darker sides it remind me the ghetto’s in that film ,also the was Caicedo novel I review Liveforever ,also about a young women ,also a journey through a city like this book .The book is one of the hidden gems that a month like Women in translation is their to uncover .

Have you read a book from Haiti

alphabet of the night by Jean-Euphele Milce


Notes –

Jean is a Haitian writer born in 1969 this is his debut novel ,he currently lives in switzerland in self-imposed exile ,he studied linguistics in Haiti and later taught Creole literature he also founded a literary magazine lire Haiti(read Haiti) .

The book –

the book follows jewish shopkeeper Jeremy Assael who is homosexual and has a partner Lucien ,the book starts of with the shop opening and the precautions they have to take to safe guard them selfs ,Shortly after this Lucien is killed in front of the shop by a corupt police man after vengeance against them .This sends Jeremy on a journey around Haiti in search of answers to who he is ,what his place is whether its in Haiti or in exile ,Jeremy wants to find a long-lost school friend who he thinks may have the answers too these questions .he heads to talk to the holy people of this island a voodoo priest and a revered bishop ,he dances with old ladies and we see the everyday life of Haiti unfold in front of our eyes .

The dawn brings me its first tints in changing swirls of colour .Port au-Prince always wakes tp find its cries ill-expresseds sorrows smoothered by a pall of smoke .Rising up from the ground ,hopes destroyed by the daily struggle for survival hangs over a place that has lost all sense of being a capital.

the opening of alphabet of the night .

My views –

This book evokes the obvious tension of Haiti ,of course it has been in the news with the earthquake recently ,but you sense on every page the menacing atmosphere of the country ,yet its spirit to get by no matter what troubles face its people ,we also discover the dilemma facing many people in the third world whether to flee and try to establish a new life in the usa .Jean Euphele is an exciting writer and a new voice for the region .

Links –

Jean on the earthquake in Haiti

March 2023


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