Haitian Literature Takes a Moon Dip
Haitian author Yanick Lahens was awarded the Prix Femina for her novel Bain de lune (Moon Dip) on Monday. In it she describes her country with a forceful beauty — the destruction that befell it, political opportunism, families torn apart, and the spellbinding words of Haitian farmers who solely rely on subterranean powers.
The French literary prize was created in 1904 by 22 female authors whose aim was to offer an alternative to the Prix Goncourt, which, at the time, was only awarded to men.The jury still is exclusively female today.
Yanick Lahens said she felt grateful for this recognition of her work and, despite her story taking place in Haiti, that the jury understood its universality.
The already critically acclaimed novelist, who was born in Port-au-Prince in 1953 and who has now become an established literary figure in Haiti and in the French speaking world.
After one crazy three-day venture, I am now spread out at the feet of a man whom I do not know. My face within an inch of his worn and muddy shoes. Struck by a sickening stench. To the point of having me forget this noose of pain around my neck, and the cut between my thighs. I can hardly turn around. Lift my legs. Put one foot down before the other follows. Cross the distance that separates me from Blue Cove. If only I could take to my heels. If only I could run off to Blue Cove. Not one time would I turn back. Not one time.
But I cannot. I cannot anymore…
Something occurred in the dusk that set on the hurricane’s first day. Something I cannot explain yet. Something that broke me.
Despite my staring gaze and my left cheek being laid directly against the wet sand, I am somewhat relieved that I am still able to sweep this village, built like Blue Cove. The same narrow huts. Every door and window shut. The same crumbling walls. On both sides of a same pathway leading to the sea.
I feel like erupting a shout, from my stomach up to my throat, to then spurt it out of my mouth. Loud and high. So loud and so high as to tear out those big dark clouds above my head. Shouting to call the Great Master, Lasirenn, and every saint. How I wish Lasirenn would take me far, far away, on his long and silky mane — rest my aching muscles, my gaping wounds, my skin, all wrinkled, by so much water and salt. But before she hears my calls, I can only fill time. And nothing else…
With everything I see.
With everything I hear.
With everything my nostrils inhale.
With each thought, fleeting, heady and wide. Until I understand what happened to me.
The stranger took his mobile phone out of his right pocket — a bottom-end Nokia such as have been more and more on display at All Stars Supermarket in Baudelet. But he could not use it. He was shaking all over. So much so that the phone slipped out of his hands and fell right against my temple. A little further and the Nokia would have sunk my eye completely…
The man made a sudden move backwards, a terrified look on his face. He then plucked up his courage, brought his torso forward slowly and stretched out his arm. He swiftly caught hold of the phone whilst taking incredible care not to touch me.
I heard him repeat very quietly, three times in a row, in a voice stifled by emotion: ‘Great is your mercy, great is your mercy, great is your mercy.’ I still hear his voice…It blends into the sea, which flutters in my back like wild sheaths.
Images jostle, collide in my head. My memory is like those algae chains, untied and dancing frantically on the sea foam. I would want to put these scattered pieces back together, to hook them up one by one, and bring it all together again. All of it. Former times. Times long gone by, as well as yesterday. Or three days ago.
Source: ‘L’Haïtienne Yanick Lahens remporte le prix femina pour « Bain de minuit »,’ La Parisienne