Edwidge Danticat: ‘Magnitude of This is Immense’

In an interview with Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal today Edwidge Danticat said she is still waiting to speak to family members who still live in Haiti. Here are some excerpts from the brief interview, which you can access through the link below:

“We did hear [Tuesday] evening from my mother-in-law, who lives in Cavaillon, in the south of Haiti,” said Ms. Danticat, who in 2009 was named a MacArthur Fellow. “She said she felt tremors in the ground, and that some rivers were swollen, but that they were more or less okay. She didn’t know the extent of what was happening in the capital because the radio was down.”

Ms. Danticat, 40 years old, said that the picture on Wednesday was much foggier in Port-au-Prince, which she described as a “very crowded city with a lot of people. The magnitude of this is immense and unbelievable. Every minute counts.”

The author, interviewed in Miami by telephone, noted that a number of international writers had been expected to meet Jan. 14 in Haiti to discuss literature, as part of a broader arts festival that got underway Jan. 1. A blog that comments on Caribbean culture, Repeating Islands, said that 50 authors had been expected to attend.

Akashic Books, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, will publish a collection of short stories being edited by Ms. Danticat titled “Haiti Noir” next January, according to Johnny Temple, Akashic’s owner.

Back in 2007, Akashic published “New Orleans Noir,” which is now in its third printing. Half of that book involves stories set in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina, with the remainder unfolding in post-Katrina settings. Ms. Danticat said she is open to including some post-earthquake stories in the upcoming Haiti collection, but that it is too early to decide. “If someone writes a good story, I would definitely be interested,” she said. Ms. Danticat doesn’t have any immediate plans to visit Haiti, saying she wouldn’t “want to get in the way.”

In another interview with Amy Goodman, Danticat added the following:

AMY GOODMAN: Edwidge Danticat, Kim just alluded to something more than the natural catastrophe that we’re seeing today, which was the very fragile politics of Haiti and what has devastated the country for so long. Could you give us a brief history of your country, founded in 1804, the first black republic in the western hemisphere born of a slave uprising?
EDWIDGE DANTICAT: Well, that’s a very wonderful place to start on a day like this. Indeed, the first black republic in this hemisphere, one of the first two republics in this hemisphere. But soon after independence, was not recognized by its neighbors, which it nevertheless helped gain, in some cases, their independence in Latin America and helped the US fight here in Savannah, Georgia. And then a series of debt, because it had to pay to France a large amount of money for its independence. And then two US invasion occupations and a series of dictatorships. It’s been — you know, before and in the midst of this, you know, deforestation sponsored by outside interests, and just a series of a very painful history.
But — and add to that all the other natural disasters — four storms last year, the tropical storm Jeanne a couple of years ago, which covered the town of Gonaives. But nothing, I think, like today. Nothing — you know, this is something — this is really the big one. This is what — people have talked about this, because we would look at these houses on the hillsides. You would look at some neighborhoods that — like Kim was talking about, with the shacks and the overpopulation in Port-au-Prince, but never imagined this. And add to this some fires that we’ve seen in the footage that we’ve seen of Port-au-Prince of the cathedral. You know, I can see parts of my old neighborhood, you know, through this very large veil of fire. So it’s really — it’s totally unimaginable. It seems like the abyss of a very long and painful history of natural and political disasters.

For more go to http://blogs.wsj.com/dispatch/2010/01/13/haiti-novelist-edwidge-danticat-magnitude-of-this-is-immense/

For the complete interview go to http://www.alternet.org/world/145131/haitian_novelist_edwidge_danticat:_earthquake_%22like_the_abyss_of_long,_painful_history_of_natural_and_political_disasters%22/

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