Kettly Mars’ Saisons sauvages [Savage Seasons] (Mercure de France, 2010) is one of the new books to be presented at the Paris Salon du Livre in the events organized around the theme Terres d’Océan [Ocean Lands or Lands of the Ocean] at the end of the month: March 26-31, 2010.
Mars’ latest novel takes place in the Port-au-Prince of the 1960s and is framed within the François Duvalier era, where tontons macoutes systematically eliminate the regime’s opponents. Daniel Leroy, editor-in-chief of a newspaper that opposes the regime has been imprisoned for his political views. The plot follows his wife Nirvah as she attempts to save her husband. Appealing to a shady but influential chief of police of humble origins, Raoul Vincent, she falls into a complex and ambiguous web of power, submitting to official’s desire to ensure survival of her husband and protect her family. Nirvah must withstand the scrutiny of her community and the “muted questions of her own children.” As the publisher states, “Kettly Mars describes a pivotal and painful period of Haiti’s history and weaves together two stories: the intimate—the fate of Nirvah and her family—and the universal—a dictatorial political regime of Duvalier and its abuses.”
Gilles Biasette (La Croix) points out that the cover art does a disservice to this “strong work” that painstakingly depicts the subtleties of human reality, with its illustration of “a sensuous black woman, more or less covered with leaves, symbols of an inevitably exuberant nature, throws [us] back to the clichés of exoticism that we thought we had overcome.”
Saisons sauvages indeed moves beyond the exotic by scrutinizing the ambiguities of master/slave relations, the erotic, morality, family, community, and class dynamics, and “the thousand ways one finds to dialogue with one’s conscience.” Grégoire Leménager (Le Nouvel observateur) calls it a “subtle, feminist and political novel” that “plunges into a world where ‘no one dies of natural death.’ The rule is simple: ‘one must not try to find out what is going on. It is a savage peace, a macoute peace.’ Revealing the mechanisms of this totalitarianism, Kettly Mars confirms the vitality of a Haitian literature that, alongside Dany Laferrière or Lyonel Trouillot, also includes remarkable women writers.”
Kettly Mars (1958) was born in à Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she still resides. She is also the author of L’Heure hybride (2005) and Fado (2008).
For full reviews (in French) by Gilles Biasette (La Croix) and Grégoire Leménager (Le Nouvel observateur), see http://www.la-croix.com/livres/article.jsp?docId=2415301&rubId=43500# and http://www.passiondulivre.com/livre-84019-saisons-sauvages.htm
Photo of Kettly Mars from http://www.africultures.com/php/index.php?nav=personne&no=7317