In the category of Translated Literature:
Waiting for the Waters to Rise
Maryse Condé, trans. from the French by Richard Philcox. World Editions
Condé’s intense latest (after The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana) follows a Malian obstetrician living in the French department of Guadeloupe whose life is upended when he learns an undocumented Haitian immigrant has died during labor, leaving behind an infant girl. Dr. Babakar Traoré Jr., long plagued by the memories of those he’s lost—including his mother and his wife—adopts Reinette Ovide’s child and names her Anaïs, regarding her as “the newfound spring that will irrigate my arid existence.” But Babakar soon discovers Reinette’s dying wish was for her daughter to grow up in Haiti, where Reinette’s sister, Estrella, still lives. Disheartened but determined to honor Reinette’s wish, Babakar sets out for Haiti. There, while accompanied by Reinette’s Haitian ex-lover Movar and mysterious hotel owner Fouad, he bears witness to the ravaging cycles of violence and prejudice that have long fractured the Caribbean nation. Condé puts forth the secrets and histories of a fascinating cast, producing a timeless exploration of the wounds that emerge—and linger—when people lose those who mean the most to them, be it their family, friends, or country. This faithful portrayal of grief and displacement is tough to forget.