"Originally published in 1988 and written by one of Haiti’s seminal authors, still with us at age 90, this vibrant, erotically charged work shows how humans counter fear—particularly the fear of death—in varied more or less magical ways, even as it paints a fresh and enticing picture of Haitian culture. . .Luscious and affirmative reading, this is work both the serious-minded and the lighthearted can enjoy."
—Library Journal, Starred review
"Depestre presents a rich and nuanced exploration of large and significant themes expertly couched in one fantastical, expertly translated tale."
—Booklist, Starred review
"One-of-a-kind...[A] ribald, free-wheeling magical-realist novel, first published in 1988 and newly, engagingly translated by Glover. . .An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry, folk art, and véritable l'amour."
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred review
"The sights and sounds of Haiti’s vibrant carnival season invigorate this tale of vodou and Haitian culture. . .The truth of Hadriana’s fate proves more poignant than horrifying, but in Depestre’s hands, this incident is a touchstone of a culture in which distinctions between the empirical and spiritual are obscured, and whose traditional celebrations and beliefs introduce an element of the mythic into the everyday. Eroticism and humor course through his narrative. Depestre’s intimacy with his subject matter and his familiarity with the people he portrays—the story is set in his hometown, at the time when he was 12 years old—give readers an insider’s look at Jacmelian culture."
"For the first time, this slim and beguiling novel about the mysterious death and possible zombification of a young woman on her wedding day has been translated into English...With its lyrical commentary on the origins of myth, this mesmeric and frequently erotic work transcends its focus on a young woman to address the complexities of race, class and religion."
—Shelf Awareness for Readers, Starred Review
With a foreword by Edwidge Danticat. Translated from the French by Kaiama L. Glover.
Hadriana in All My Dreams, winner of the prestigious Prix Renaudot, takes place primarily during Carnival in 1938 in the Haitian village of Jacmel. A beautiful young French woman, Hadriana, is about to marry a Haitian boy from a prominent family. But on the morning of the wedding, Hadriana drinks a mysterious potion and collapses at the altar. Transformed into a zombie, her wedding becomes her funeral. She is buried by the town, revived by an evil sorcerer, and then disappears into popular legend.
Set against a backdrop of magic and eroticism, and recounted with delirious humor, the novel raises universal questions about race and sexuality. The reader comes away enchanted by the marvelous reality of Haiti's Vodou culture and convinced of Depestre's lusty claim that all beings—even the undead ones—have a right to happiness and true love.
From the introduction by Edwidge Danticat:
Despestre offers us the kind of tale we rarely get in the hundreds of zombie stories featuring Haitians, stories set both inside and outside of Haiti. In Hadriana in All My Dreams we get both langaj—the secret language of Haitian Vodou—as well as the type of descriptive, elegiac, erotic, and satirical language, and the artistic license needed to create this most nuanced and powerful novel.
Kaiama L. Glover is an associate professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon, coeditor of Yale French Studies' Revisiting Marie Vieux-Chauvet: Paradoxes of Postcolonial Feminine (issue no. 128), and translator of Frenkétienne's Ready to Burst and Marie Vieux-Chauvet's Dance on the Volcano. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the Fulbright Foundation.
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About the Author
René Depestre, born in 1926, is one of the most important voices of Haitian literature. A peer of seminal figures like Aimé Césaire, Pablo Neruda, and André Breton, Depestre has engaged with the politics/aesthetics of negritude, social realism, and surrealism for more than half a century. Having lived through significant moments in Haitian and New World history--from the overthrow of Haitian dictator Élie Lescot in 1946, to the first Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris in 1956, to a struggle with Haiti's François "Papa Doc" Duvalier in 1957, to a collaboration with Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and a fraught relationship with Fidel Castro in the 1960s and '70s--Depestre is uniquely positioned to reflect on the extent to which the Americas and Europe are implicated in Haiti's past and present. He is the author of Hadriana in All My Dreams.
Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the editor of Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2: The Classics, and author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory (an Oprah's Book Club selection), Krik? Krak! (a National Book Award finalist), The Farming of Bones (an American Book Award winner), and the novel-in-stories The Dew Breaker. She has also written several young adult novels and a travel narrative, After the Dance, A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel. Her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2007 winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 recipient of the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation grant and she lives in Miami.