New Book: Évelyne Trouillot’s La mémoire aux abois

Blues dans le Sud blog points out that in Haiti, two women have each written a novel dealing with a similar theme at a very particular point in time. Kettly Mars has recently published Saisons sauvages with Mercure de France [see New Book: Kettly Mars’ Saisons sauvages] and Évelyne Trouillot has just published La mémoire aux abois [Memories at Bay] with Editions Hoëbeke. The main characters of these two novels are women who are struggling during the Duvalier era. “But the comparison stops there,” the article states. Mars chose François Duvalier’s Haiti in the early stages of “Papa Doc’s” rise, and Trouillot’s exploration takes place in a hospital room in Paris.

Trouillot’s novel features two main voices: two women telling alternating accounts, written in two different typographies. “This is not a dialogue or exchange; this is not the confrontation of two solitudes. This is much more; this is fatal parallelism of two monologues in history.” The novel is based on the dual evocation of a single historical period through the lens of two varying points of view. One is the story of an old woman who bears the heavy burden of the past; she is the wife of a former dictator who weighed down with his violent presence a small country called Quisqueya. This old woman standing “on the edge of the abyss recalls the long trajectory from 1957 to 1986.” She “imposes her vision as if it were evidence and justifies it unblinkingly.” The other is the story of the nurse, also originally from Quisqueya, who stands in the shadow of the room, monitoring the old woman’s every breath. They have been thrown together in the same hospital room because these two women share the same customs, the same language, and the same story. However, their “shared” story is embedded like a thorn in the nurse’s flesh of this nurse as she cares for her patient, the wife of the dictator that destroyed part of her family. “Admittedly, there are accounts to settle, but silently. In absolute silence. [. . .] In this powerful novel tension intensifies from two parallel narratives anchored in a past that continues to be present, even forty years after.”

Evelyne Trouillot is “a member of one of Haiti’s most fertile literary families: her uncle is the historian Henock Trouillot, and her siblings the novelist Lyonel Trouillot, anthropologist, historian and political scientist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Creole scholar and children’s book author Jocelyne Trouillot.” Trouillot left Haiti at an early age to study in the United States, but returned in the early 1980s where she has lived ever since, dividing her time between teaching and writing her fiction and poetry. “Today more than ever,” she says, “to write in Haiti is to say no to ugliness, mediocrity, and sloth, for a little more happiness at the end of the road.”

Trouillot is the author of poetry collections, children’s books, short stories, and novels such as Rosalie l’infâme and L’oeuil totem. With her brother Lyonel and her daughter Nadève Ménard, she is a founder of Pré-texte, an organization that sponsors reading and writing workshops.

For full review, see http://philmorbraz.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html

Biography based on information by Madison Smartt Bell; see http://bombsite.com/issues/90/articles/2708

4 thoughts on “New Book: Évelyne Trouillot’s La mémoire aux abois

  1. So sorry. I based the information on the Bombsite article. I will correct the post right away. Thanks so much for the clarification.
    IR

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