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January 2013

Writing from Haiti

Three years ago this month, a massive earthquake shook Haiti, devastating a country already battered by poverty and disease. In this issue writers describe both the immediate and long-range effects of the disaster on Haiti's people and its literature. In a raw tale written only days after the quake, Évelyne Trouillot documents the survival instinct. Kettly Mars paints a grim picture of life in the camps. Lyonel Trouillot searches for survivors. Yanick Lahens reflects on faults and time. In poetry, Guy-Gerald Ménard enters a season of mourning, while Louis-Philippe Dalembert finds a city on life support, and James Noël speaks to the dead. And Nadève Ménard describes the resilience of the Haitian literary community. As new catastrophes drive earlier disasters out of the headlines and off the radar, these writers remind us that Haiti's recovery is far from complete. In a special section on Bangla literature, Anwara Syed Haq's tinkerer has his hands full with a deathly project, Mashiul Alam follows an Indian citizen to his funeral pyre, and Ahmad Mostafa Kamal watches the banks of an all-consuming river.

Primal Needs
By Évelyne Trouillot
Was there still a second floor? Don’t think about it.
Translated from French by Paul Curtis Daw
Season of Grief
By Guy-Gerald Ménard
Goudougoudougoudougoudou . . .   When the malicious brouhaha finally dozed off at dusk’s feet when in the magic of darkness ribbons of promise turned into sadness with desperation deep in our…
Translated from Haitian Creole by Chantal Kenol
Under the Rubble
By Guy-Gerald Ménard
We held our breath close to our bodies sorted words in a straitjacket our lives between parentheses turpentine to make hope last fear sets up a tent on our chest fog invades our minds paralyzes our limbs …
Translated from Haitian Creole by Chantal Kenol
from “At the Borders of Thirst”
By Kettly Mars
You needed a guide, one of those men who lived off the flesh and blood of the camp.
Translated from French by David Ball & Nicole Ball
Time Stretches Out and My Words Do, Too
By Yanick Lahens
Mid-August. The beach, for the first time since the earthquake. The water is warm, just the way I like it. I keep saying that Haiti is neither a postcard nor a nightmare. This Sunday more than ever. I’m…
Translated from French by David Ball & Nicole Ball
January 12, 2010
By Lyonel Trouillot
An interview scheduled with the French writer and literary festival director Michel Le Bris and Dany Laferrière, a Haitian and Canadian novelist and journalist. The noise, first of all. As if some…
Translated from French by Linda Coverdale
Port-au-Prince on an IV Drip
By Louis-Philippe Dalembert
drip drop port-au-prince’s life slips away drip drop like a canoe ocean waves thrust within the sun’s flames port-au-prince disintegrates drip drop like a bad rain drip drop that refuses to…
Translated from Haitian Creole by Nadève Ménard
In All Magnitude
By James Noël
I give thanks to the earth, not the same, not mine—my stormy, radiant illiterate—I give thanks to the earth, not my island, that terrible girl, who learned, with her silent “S,”…
Translated from French by Antoine Bargel & Alexis Pernsteiner
An Indian Citizen in Our Town
By Mashiul Alam
He can clearly see all of this life of seventy-three years, two months and thirteen days.
Translated from Bengali by Shabnam Nadiya
By Anwara Syed Haq
The things he could mend! From jewelry to shoe soles, from punctured tires to bent bicycle spokes–he fixed it all.
Translated from Bengali by Shabnam Nadiya
By Ahmad Mostofa Kamal
If fornication was stopped, what pleasure was left in life?
Translated from Bengali by Mahmud Rahman
Neverending Story: Haiti’s Vibrant Literary Sphere Endures
By Nadève Ménard
Almost three years ago in Haiti, Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities were nearly destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake. All aspects of Haitian life were greatly affected by the January 12, 2010, disaster.…