Massacre River

Massacre River

5.0 1
by Linda Coverdale, Rene Philoctete
     
 

"Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic flows a river filled with ghosts," Edwige Danticat writes in her superb preface to Massacre River: "Over time the river has been the site of several massacres including the one which is the subject of this tour de force by René Philoctete."
In 1937 the power-mad racist Generalissimo Trujillo ordered the

Overview

"Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic flows a river filled with ghosts," Edwige Danticat writes in her superb preface to Massacre River: "Over time the river has been the site of several massacres including the one which is the subject of this tour de force by René Philoctete."
In 1937 the power-mad racist Generalissimo Trujillo ordered the slaughter of thousands and thousands of Haitians and, as Philoctete puts it, death set up shop everywhere. At the heart of Massacre River is the loving marriage of the Dominican Pedro and the Haitian Adele in a little town on the Dominican border. On his way to work, Pedro worries that a massacre is in the making; an olive-drab truck packed with armed soldiers rumbles by. And then the church bells begin to ring, and there is the relentless voice on the radio everywhere, urging the slaughter of all the Haitians. Operation Cabezas Haitianas (Haitian Heads) is underway, the soldiers shout, "Perejil! [Parsley!] Perish! Punish!" Haitians try to pronounce "perejil" correctly, but fail, and weep. The town is in an uproar, Adele is ordered to say "perejil" but stammers. And Pedro runs home and searches for his beloved wife, searches and searches " The characters of this book not only inspired the love and outrage of an extraordinary writer like Philoctete," writes Edwige Danticat, "but continue to challenge the meaning of community and humanity in all of us."

Editorial Reviews

Abigain Deutsch - The Literary Review
“This virtuosic translation, by Linda Coverdale, is his first into English. Meticulousness characterizes the novel to the very end.”
Confrontation
“A classic Haitian novel.”
Library Journal

In this 1989 novel, Philoctète recounts the brutal attack on a Dominican town by Haiti's Generalissimo Trujillo. It unfurls through the eyes of Pedro Brito, who endeavors to save his Haitian wife from the slaughter. LJ's reviewer found that the book "makes the horror of this historical event feel very tangible."


—Michael Rogers
Kirkus Reviews
A haunting, if unsatisfying, novel of the 1937 massacre of Haitians living on the Dominican border. In 1930, dictator Rafael Trujillo Molina took control of the Dominican Republic, a regime that would last until his assassination in 1961. Although Trujillo was of mixed race, he was said to consider blacks inferior, and was rumored to wear face powder in order to lighten his complexion. Philoctete's novel centers on this flawed man and his anger over the "Haitian invasion" (not only for the increasing rates of intermarriage but also the effects of Haitians entering the Dominican workforce). In October 1937, Trujillo ordered his army to kill all Haitians in the border region, using their machetes so as to make the massacre appear the action of furious campesinos. Before the 17,000 Haitian men, women and children-many of whom had been born in the Dominican Republic-were slaughtered, they were asked to pronounce the word "parsley." If they could enunciate correctly, their lives would be spared. At the core of Philoctete's story are Pedro Alvarez Brito, a mixed-race Dominican, and his Haitian wife, Adele Benjamin. As Pedro leaves for his shift at the sugar factory, an army truck filled with soldiers roars by. In a dreamlike sequence, Adele, hanging up the wash, is commanded to say the word, which apparently kills her. Was it the utterance that caused her death? Or was her throat cut as part of Operation Cabezas Haitianas? Pedro returns home to see his wife sprawled in the dirt; she is alive but has lost her mind. Will this couple, a humble symbol of the land, survive?Philoctete's work is not an easy read; although dense with footnotes, for those unfamiliar with the history of the DominicanRepublic, the story will remain somewhat opaque.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811215855
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
11/05/2005
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Linda Coverdale has translated over forty books, including works by Roland Barthes, Annie Ernaux, and Patrick Chamoiseau. Her translation of Tahar Ben Jelloun's This Blinding Absence of Light won the 2004 IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award.

Acclaimed Haitian poet and scholar René Philoctète was a founder of the group Haiti Litteraire and a co-founder of the Spiraliste literary movement. He was devoted to Haiti and the Kreyol language, and after only a few months in Canada in 1966 during the Duvalier repression, he returned home for good, deciding that he'd rather be murdered at home than live in exile. He was widely respected for his fearless rejection of all forces of oppression. Born during the American occupation, he died in 1995, with American soldiers once again in his homeland.

Linda Coverdale has translated over forty books, including works by Roland Barthes, Annie Ernaux, and Patrick Chamoiseau. Her translation of Tahar Ben Jelloun's This Blinding Absence of Light won the 2004 IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award.

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Massacre River 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago