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The Return (2009)

by Dany Laferrière

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1306167,325 (3.95)36
Windsor Laferriere is an exiled Haitian writer, forced to flee his homeland by a tyrannical regime. He has lived in Montreal for thirty-three years and now suffers from writer's block. His father of the same name has just died in New York, where he himself lived as an emigre for the fifty years. Windsor decides to travel to Haiti via New York to attend the funeral and inform his mother of the death. Leaving behind the freezing winter of Montreal - something he has never got used to - for the wet heat of Haiti, Windsor is faced with the grim truth of life in his homeland - the endemic poverty and starvation, the thwarted ambitions and broken dreams. But only here can he become a writer again?.… (more)
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French (4)  English (2)  All languages (6)
Showing 2 of 2
Dany Laferriere was born in Haiti in 1953. I was born in Canada in 1953. Despite being the same age our lives are completely different. Laferriere's father had to go into exile to escape Papa Doc Duvalier's murderous attentions. He was never able to return to his homeland so the author grew up without a father essentially. My father was a farmer and barely left the area where he was born and grew up. When Dany was 23 he had to go into exile to escape the Baby Doc regime. He was 56 when he finally returned to Haiti and wrote this book. When I was 18 I left home to go to university 300 miles away. Although I have travelled quite a bit in my adult life my home has always been made in the country and province in which I was born.

When Dany was 56 he got a phone call that told him his father had died in New York City. Despite living in Montreal not that far away from his father it seems like the separation in his youth had never been repaired so he had not spent much time in with his father. Nevertheless when the call came Dany knew he had to return his father to Haiti. He didn't physically return his father's body but he took his spirit back to the small village of Baraderes. There is a saying that you can't return home again and to a certain extent that was true for the author. However, the longer he stays in Haiti the more he discovers about his family and friends and also his father. He thinks of Montreal as a distant memory of cold. By the end of the book though it is clear Laferriere will be going back to Montreal and his life there.

This book is written in a combination of poetry and prose. Sometimes the poem devolves into prose but it is only in reflecting that you realize there has been a transition. Credit has to be given to the translator David Homel for managing to put into English the thoughts of the author while retaining the poetic intention. I haven't read any of Laferriere's other books but after reading this one I will certainly be keeping my eyes open for more. I just wish I could read French well enough to be able to read them in the original. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jun 20, 2016 |
Even in translation, this is a beautifully written book. Although the narrator tells of his return to Haiti, following the death of his father, and after three decades of exile in Montreal, his story is not event- or plot-driven. This journey through space and time is a rumination on belonging and separation, on loneliness and love, on wealth and poverty, even of wealth in poverty.

Using brief sections of free verse mixed with prose, Laferrière offers vignettes and quick sketches of that journey that are often epigrammatic in their precision and brevity. In this way he makes an homage to the land and people of Haiti, while also conveying the horror that has comprised life there for centuries.

There is a great mystery to be pondered here, for amidst the destitution, the dirt, the violence and death, the narrator finds incomparable beauty, warmth, and joy. Montreal was safe, sane, and orderly, but there was little life on its frigid shores.

Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote librorumamans | Sep 18, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dany Laferrièreprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thill, BeateTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sometimes a phone call in the middle of the night

turns everything upside down in an instant.

We are lost in restless movement.

It's always easier to change places

than change lives.
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Windsor Laferriere is an exiled Haitian writer, forced to flee his homeland by a tyrannical regime. He has lived in Montreal for thirty-three years and now suffers from writer's block. His father of the same name has just died in New York, where he himself lived as an emigre for the fifty years. Windsor decides to travel to Haiti via New York to attend the funeral and inform his mother of the death. Leaving behind the freezing winter of Montreal - something he has never got used to - for the wet heat of Haiti, Windsor is faced with the grim truth of life in his homeland - the endemic poverty and starvation, the thwarted ambitions and broken dreams. But only here can he become a writer again?.

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