Review of Alanna Lockward’s “Marassá y la Nada”

Sophie Mariñez reviews Alanna Lockward’s 2010 Marassá y la Nada [Marassa and Nothingness] for the Dominican daily Hoy. The critic points out the skillful way in which Lockward establishes links between two countries divided by a series of boundaries—geographic, psychological, politicalbut without privileging either side, highlighting spiritual connections that may be as rich and complex as those conveyed by the concept of the divine Marassa twins. Here are excerpts translated from the original Spanish-language text:

Written by Alanna Lockward—Dominican dancer, journalist, author and curator—with illustrations by Gabriela Vainsencher, Marassá y la Nada is a unique gift of poetry and intellect.

[. . .] The story revolves around two sisters, Laura, who lives in Paris and commits suicide at the beginning of the novel, and Mara, who lives in Santo Domingo, absorbs this tragedy and is starving herself to death. A third woman, Moira (cousin of the aforementioned) who lives in New York, tells much of the story while traveling to Santo Domingo to save Mara. On the way, she seizes this opportunity to travel to Haiti in search of the remains of Doña Manuela Ricart de Porter, mother of young women [. . .]. The trip to Haiti is presented to the reader with an impressive freshness. There is no attempt here to repeat stereotypes of travel to the heart of darkness of Africa or endless images of hair-raising poverty, no guilt about the past or apologizing for colonial damages—imperialist, massacring, or humanitarian—and other mechanisms for usurping riches, including the air people breathe in Haiti. [. . .] Seen in this context, sisters Laura and Mara emerge as allegorical figures of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

As Julia Alvarez says in a Una boda en Haití [A Wedding in Haiti] (Penguin, 2012), Haiti has always been that great unknown brother of whom she knew so little. Crossing into Haiti is a journey, which both physically and symbolically (or literarily) is and always will be, in our country, an act of breaking a psychological and political boundary more than a geographic one (and therefore, harder and riskier). Both authors make this journey with great courage and candor. However, Lockward’s text presents a profound and marvelous familiarity with the terrain. Without downplaying the effects of the passing of natural disasters and human greed, while still noting the lack of trees and stones in the mountains, while also perceiving the starving dogs and the sweat of the populace, Marassá y la Nada reveals a mastery of the material, which is nourished by twenty years of journeys back and forth that the author has been making beyond our geographical and ideological borders.

And the point is that, in this text, no one is the “other”—neither the narrator nor the characters or the country that is being visited. We are all at home; no one fascinates anyone more than the ordinary. If we are twins, which is what “Marassa” means in Haitian Creole, we are not identical, but there are bonds that surmount the differences.

For full review (in Spanish), see http://www.hoy.com.do/areito/2012/8/17/442071/Alegoria-de-una-hermandad-atormentada-en-Marassa-y-la-Nada-de-Alanna

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