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Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre
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Hadriana in All My Dreams

by René Depestre

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Hadriana dans tous mes rêves is essentially the story of a beautiful young woman who collapses on her wedding day in Jacmel in 1938, is buried, and then goes missing from the cemetery. And we all know what it means when a Haitian corpse goes missing...

The highlight of the book is of course the description of the Jacmel carnival, intended as a celebration of the wedding of the most popular young people in town but in the event a gloriously extravagant voudou wake around Hadriana's open coffin. Depestre is particularly interested in how the participants' perception of events is influenced by their belief in the supernatural, so we get this twice in subtly different forms, once from Patrick's impressionable point of view and once from Hadriana's more detached perspective. Either way, it's quite a party, and Depestre pulls out all the stops to give us the kind of extravagant description that wouldn't be out of place in a novel written in the 20s or 30s. Everything is very heavily eroticised, at times to an extent verging on the pornographic. Depestre is obviously making a point about the way sexual fantasies reinforce and encourage collective beliefs, but he's also clearly taking advantage of his privileged position as author to indulge his own sexual fantasies. This may be a book about an independent-minded young woman triumphing over a macho culture, but it doesn't really seem to qualify as a feminist work.

There's some amazing writing here, and it's definitely an interesting and enjoyable book to read, but I did end up with an uncomfortable feeling that Depestre was cheating a bit: we get both an entertaining, erotically-charged zombie story and a Marxist, postcolonial account of how voudou beliefs fit into the dominant ideology, but he plays the postmodern joker and refuses to commit to either of those ways of reading the book. ( )
1 vote thorold | Feb 15, 2016 |
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