mercredi 4 mai 2011
Écrits d'Haïti: 5 years in the making!
Last month, after five years of hard work, international collaboration, countless revisions and the use of postal services in three different countries, my first book, Écrits d'Haïti, Perspectives sur la littérature haïtienne contemporaine (1986-2006) was finally released. It contains 24 articles on contemporary Haitian literature by critics such as Marie-José N'Zengou-Tayo, Joëlle Vitiello, Martin Munro, Kaiama Glover, Yves Chemla and of course, Régine Michelle Jean-Charles. There are also interviews with 11 of today's important Haitian writers, including Georges Castera, Yanick Lahens, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, Jean Métellus and Gary Victor. The book does not have an overarching theme. That was a very deliberate choice. Rather than insist upon a supposed violent or nostalgic essence to Haitian writing, I wanted to just let the works breathe a little. Just let them be. I wanted to see what fun and new ideas that scholars would come up with. I think it paid off with articles like Jason Herbeck's "Le polar aux Antilles et le cas de Rosalie l’infâme d'Evelyne Trouillot" and Michel Magniez's "Le héros homosexuel dans les récits en Haïti" or Jean-Marie Théodat's "Autogéographie du Faubourg".
Another goal was to gather in one conversation literary critics based in the US and Europe, in Canada and the Caribbean. So that they could talk with and against each other. However, as I mention in the introduction, that objective was only partly attained. I invited several local colleagues to participate in the project, but for various reasons, they were mostly unable to. Only one of the many literary critics involved in the project, Pierre Maxwell Bellefleur, is based in Haiti. This speaks volumes to the difficulties of scholarship here. This morning, I went to ENS after being in France for two months. Our librarian is just now reshelving a portion of our collection. We've received metal bookcases, but still don't have a secure space in which to shelve the entirety of the library's holdings. Imagine finding research material in such a situation. Then, there is of course the basic issue of salary. Professors in the Haitian higher education system do not earn enough to be able to devote themselves full time to an academic career. We also teach high school, work as journalists, administrators, and consultants. Or teach so many hours that there's little time left for course prep and grading, let alone for writing.
It was important to me that Ecrits d'Haïti be published in one of Haiti's official languages. It is incredibly frustrating as a professor to be unable to assign pertinent articles on works we study in class because they're not written in a language my students can understand. Without trying to dictate the linguistic choices of fellow scholars, I wanted to ensure that my students would be able to participate in the discussion generated by this book. Of course, its cost makes it highly unlikely that my students will purchase their own copies, but I'll be donating a copy to our library and Karthala is selling the book at a lesser price in Haiti and Africa. (20 euros instead of 29. Still a lot, I know, but it's something).
All things considered, I am hopeful that Ecrits d'Haiti will be an important contribution to the field of Haitian literary studies. Once you get a chance to look at it, please come back and let us know what you think!