mardi 4 janvier 2011

Écrire par devoir de mémoire?

I have spent a large part of this past year (not to mention much of my life/ career as a cultural critic) critiquing Haiti's representation in the US media.  As an avid reader of the New York Times, I have been been dismayed and pleased by some of their coverage over the years.  However, I do have to say that it does seem like this year they are making more of an effort to include Haitian voices in a more deliberate and interesting way, which is great.  Reminds me of a comment from one of our readers a couple of weeks ago about the difference between "writing about" Haiti and "writing for" Haiti.  An important distinction indeed!  This recent opinion piece by Kettly Mars in The New York Times is a beautiful example of the latter.   Mars is one of my favorite authors writing in Haiti today; this short piece exemplifies her ability to capture the essence of a moment with a few simple sentences.  She writes, 

"For the first two or three days after the earthquake, we relied on one another to save the lives that could be saved, however few there were. With bare hands, survivors pulled the wounded from concrete and iron, then drove them to hospitals, or pushed them there in carts, or carried them on their backs. We shared our food and water. Money, for once, was not important, nor were last names or skin color. For a brief and enlightening moment in our lives we experienced the true meaning of brotherhood." 

Follow the link here for the entire article. You can also go to HIP magazine for a recent interview with Mars.  As the anniversary of the earthquake approaches, I am on the lookout for how Haitian writers in particular are remembering and reflecting on the tragedy.   The title for this post comes from the writing project "Écrire par devoir de mémoire" for which a group of African writers travelled to Rwanda in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and wrote various texts, essays, poems, novels, plays about the experience.  This example, albeit very different since most of these writers were not Rwandese or in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, comes to mind because of the imperative suggested by the "devoir de mémoire" which translates as a duty to remember even (maybe even especially?) in the wake of tragic events.   Already books like Haiti parmi les vivants, Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture, and the Earthquake of 2010, and Dany Laferrière's Tout bouge autour de moi (to name a few) have begun the work of writing as a duty to remember the earthquake, with certainly many more to follow.   But I must admit even this notion of "devoir de mémoire" comes up short in defining post-earthquake writing, whether in the form of wrenching testimonials, arresting poetry, or just wistful longings...although inevitable, maybe it is too early to begin to define or contain writing about the earthquake, what do you think?


1 commentaire:

  1. In the case of Haiti particularly, the “devoir de mémoire” is certainly important. I discovered that especially while researching for Rosalie l’infâme as I realized that we did not know too much about slavery and the slaves’ lives and resistance. However, I think the post-earthquake events show us that there is a need to go deeper and not only remember but understand and work for a change in the social framework of our country. If right after the earthquake we were indeed all united and working together to stay alive and survive, that “unity” did not last too long. Why? Not because “Haitians do not want to unite” but simply because the gaps within the different categories of society are so huge that people do not feel they belong to the same country. When most people go hungry for days, do not have decent housing, cannot send their kids to school, to name a few basic needs, it is rather idealist to ask them to feel part of a collective that does not give them anything. Their survival becomes what is most important to them. As a writer, I feel that when I write, if I want to be true to myself, I have to dig deeper and at least try to show the complexity and the diversity of Haitian society. I would call it a “devoir de citoyenneté”.