What’s on Our Nightstands: Louis-Philippe Dalembert’s “The Other Side of the Sea”

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The Other Side of the Sea was published by University of Virginia Press (CARAF Books: Caribbean and African Literature translated from the French) in November 2014. Having recently purchased my Kindle copy, I am sorry to say that I discovered that this post had been sitting on my desktop; I must apologize to our readers and to the translator, Dr. Robert H. McCormick Jr., for not posting this earlier.

The Other Side of the Sea is the first English language translation of Louis-Philippe Dalembert’s L’Autre face de la mer (Paris: Stock 1998; Paris: Le Serpent à Plumes, 2005; Port-au-Prince: Presses Nationales d’Haïti, 2007). This lovely translation includes a foreword by Edwidge Danticat.

Description: The Other Side of the Sea, the first novel by this major Haitian author to be translated into English, is riveted on the other shore–whether it is the ancestral Africa that still haunts Haitians, the America to which so many have emigrated, or even that final shore, the uncertain afterlife awaiting us all. With a grandmother and her grandson sharing the narration, this rich and concise tale covers an impressive span of Haitian history and emotion. Too old to leave her veranda, Noubòt reflects on her past, touching on the 1937 Parsley Massacre, in which thousands of Haitians died at the hands of Dominican soldiers, and laments the exodus of so many young people from Haiti, although, ironically, she dreamed of making the trip herself (her name means New Boat in Creole). Her story is juxtaposed with that of her grandson, Jonas, as he suffers the abandonment of friends–including his lover–who emigrated during the Duvalier dictatorships, even feeling an urge to join them. Perhaps most striking is the addition of a third voice–that of an anonymous passenger in steerage recounting a slave ship’s progress to the New World from Africa. This voice from long ago provides a powerful depiction of the sights, sounds, and smells of the Middle Passage and a fascinating counterpoint to the evocations of modern Haiti.

Louis-Philippe Dalembert was born in Port-au-Prince in 1962. The author of numerous works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, he has lived and taught in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.

Robert H. McCormick Jr. is Professor Emeritus of Literature and Creative Writing at Franklin University Switzerland.

Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Brother, I’m Dying, is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a MacArthur Genius Grant.

For more information, see http://books.upress.virginia.edu/detail%2Fbooks%2Fgroup-4803.xml?q=Dalembert and http://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Sea-CARAF-Books/dp/0813936470/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433982426&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3ADalembert+Louis

Read more on the author at http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/ile.en.ile/paroles/dalembert.html

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