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Enigme du retour (L') [Paperback]

Dany Laferrière
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 14 2009 Littérature
Lauréat du prix Médicis 2009.Lauréat du Grand Prix du livre de Montréal 2009.Lauréat du Prix des libraires du Québec 2009.Nommé meilleur roman français de l’année par la revue Lire.Finaliste pour le Prix du Gouverneur général 2010.En nomination pour le prix du Grand public La Presse - Salon du livre de Montréal 2010.Un jeune homme de vingt-trois ans a quitté son pays de façon précipitée. Un homme épuisé y retourne, trente-trois ans plus tard. Le jeune homme est passé de l’étouffante chaleur de Port-au-Prince à l’interminable hiver de Montréal. Du Sud au Nord. De la jeunesse à l’âge mûr. Entre ces deux pôles se trouve coincé le temps pourri de l’exil. Une nuit, un coup de fil lui apprend le décès de son père à New York. Ce père qu’il n’a pratiquement vu qu’en photo. Cet événement le fait quitter la baignoire pour prendre la route. D’abord n’importe où, vers le nord; comme un adieu à cet univers de glace qui l’a tenu au frais si longtemps. Puis à New York pour les funérailles de son père, que l’exil avait rendu fou. Il compte le ramener à son village natal de Barradères, dans le sud d’Haïti. Pas le corps, qui appartient au voyage. Plutôt l’esprit. Des funérailles sans cadavre. Et le voici à Port-au-Prince, où il se terre dans une chambre à l’hôtel, n’osant regarder cette ville qu’il a tant rêvée là-bas dans sa baignoire, à Montréal.Si, dans Je suis un écrivain japonais, Dany Laferrière s’était donné pour but de vider le concept d’identité de tout son contenu, il poursuit ici l’objectif contraire. Qu’est-ce qui fait que nous venons indéniablement d’un lieu, d’une culture? Pourquoi sommes-nous toujours le fils de notre père? Un roman à la forme neuve, originale, qui mêle haïku et narration. Un livre grave, poétique, onirique, réaliste. Le livre d’un très grand écrivain.

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About the Author

Dany Laferrière est né à Port-au-Prince. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs romans, dont, au Boréal, Vers le Sud (2006) et Je suis un écrivain japonais (2008). Il vit à Montréal, où il est également journaliste et chroniqueur.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Est-ce vraiment un roman? Oct. 17 2010
Format:Paperback
Un homme reçoit un coup de fil au milieu de la nuit: son père est mort à New York, un père qu'il n'as pas vraiment connu. Il entreprend un voyage vers le Nord à partir de Montréal avant de se diriger vers le Sud, d'abord à New York pour les funérailles de son père et ensuite à Port-au-Prince où vivent encore sa mère, sa soeur, son neveu et d'autres.

L'écriture mêle vers libres et proses. Les critiques s'entendent qu'elle est originale. Moi, ce qui m'a attiré vers ce roman dès la première ligne, c'est la voix. Une voix très juste. Tellement juste que j'ai eu l'impression d'entendre une voix me lire le texte tout le long. Une voix qui observe, note, réfléchit et questionne. Tellement limpide qu'elle va droit au coeur. Elle nous emmène dans un Haïti qu'on ne connaîtra jamais: le pays d'un homme exilé par la force des choses, d'un homme qui a vécu plus de trente en exil dans un pays du Nord, d'un homme qui a connu la faim sans la connaître (lire le chapitre poignant intitulé "La faim")... , d'un homme avec une troublante limpidité de la voix et une grande acuité du regard.

Il faut toutefois dire que l'appellation "roman" sur la couverture est déconcertante. N'est-ce pas un récit autobiographique? Des fragments et des réflexions sous forme de vers libres et de prose? Au début, je cherchais le roman annoncé et je ne le trouvais pas.

Ce livre est à lire et à savourer lentement. Après sa lecture, vous ne regarderez plus Haïti de la même façon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Haitian Ithaca June 8 2011
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is labeled a novel, but that is stretching things. By his own admission, Haitian-Canadian author Dany Laferrière writes only about himself; this book is essentially a memoir of his return to Haiti after spending 33 years as an exile in Montreal. A memoir, moreover, written largely in verse, though short passages of prose increasingly break up that texture. Although written as sixty separately-titled poems -- chapters, trains-of-thought, call them what you will -- there is a narrative line of sorts. Awakened by in the middle of the night by news of his father's death in New York, the writer tidies his affairs in ice-bound Montreal, takes the train South to attend his father's memorial service, then flies to the heat and color of Haiti to break the news to his mother. She has remained in Port-au-Prince all these years after her husband's exile by Papa Doc Duvalier half a century before, only to see her son similarly forced into exile by the dictator's son, Baby Doc. And now his return.

This book, the 2009 winner of the prestigious Prix Médicis in France, has yet to be translated into English. It will not be an easy task. Not because the language is especially difficult; on the contrary, Laferrière writes in simple slightly idiomatic French, with an admirable directness of expression. But the very simplicity of the language, poetry that reads almost as prose (or vice-versa), leaves the translator no obvious stylistic or structural guidelines to mark the difference between flat fidelity and the author's finely-tuned evocation of the sights, scents, sounds, and people of his native land. There are charming moments, certainly: a cemetery painted in bright colors and primitive style by people for whom "la mort semble simple comme bonjour"; or . . .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where is home? Feb. 22 2013
By Friederike Knabe TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
On his last day in Montreal, the "cold white city where I've known the strongest passions" and his "home" for several decades, Wilbert reflects on exile and loss:

"Exile in time is more pitiless / Than exile in space.
I miss / My childhood more intensely / than my country."

What must it feel like to return to the country of your birth and childhood that you have not visited and experienced in more than thirty years? And, that you had to leave in the dead of night after friends and associates disappeared or where found dead... Why go back at all, what will it mean? Told in the first person, Dany Laferrière has written this outstanding and strangely absorbing novel that appears to be an amalgam of imaginative fiction and subtly disguised real life memoir, set against his poetically evoked country of birth and youth: Haiti.

Surprisingly, the book opens with a long poem, introducing the reader from the outset to the author's inventive way of telling his story: alternating throughout between poetry and prose. I must admit that, not being a great fan of poetry, I was initially reluctant to immerse myself in The Return (L'Enigme de retour) when I first held the French original in my hands. Yet, once I started, I became very quickly and totally immersed in Laferriere's ways of writing with its mix of prose, relating encounters and events and poetry, evoking surroundings or reflecting on observations or emotions. The narrative flows seamlessly between the two styles, each with its own rhythms and different tone and 'feel' of language, yet harmoniously combined so that after a while you are no longer conscious of the poetry or prose sections. The novel has been exquisitely translated by David Homel.

Why go back?
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Haitian Ithaca June 8 2011
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is labeled a novel, but that is stretching things. By his own admission, Haitian-Canadian author Dany Laferrière writes only about himself; this book is essentially a memoir of his return to Haiti after spending 33 years as an exile in Montreal. A memoir, moreover, written largely in verse, though short passages of prose increasingly break up that texture. Although written as sixty separately-titled poems -- chapters, trains-of-thought, call them what you will -- there is a narrative line of sorts. Awakened in the middle of the night by news of his father's death in New York, the writer tidies his affairs in ice-bound Montreal, takes the train south to attend his father's memorial service, then flies to the heat and color of Haiti to break the news to his mother. She has remained in Port-au-Prince all these years after her husband's exile by Papa Doc Duvalier half a century before, only to see her son similarly forced into exile by the dictator's son, Baby Doc. And now his return.

This book, the 2009 winner of the prestigious Prix Médicis in France, has yet to be translated into English.* It will not be an easy task. Not because the language is especially difficult; on the contrary, Laferrière writes in simple slightly idiomatic French, with an admirable directness of expression. But the very simplicity of the language, poetry that reads almost as prose (or vice-versa), leaves the translator no obvious stylistic or structural guidelines to mark the difference between flat fidelity and the author's finely-tuned evocation of the sights, scents, sounds, and people of his native land. There are charming moments, certainly: a cemetery painted in bright colors and primitive style by people for whom "death seems as simple as saying good morning"; or ". . . the lazy walk of a cow out for its evening stroll, the night becoming a Chagall." But horrors also: street people roasting a cat on a spit while its owner calls "Mitzi" in the distance; a woman whose son dies at the side of the highway because cars won't stop for fear she may be a bait for robbers. The book is full of comments about things that change, things that stay the same, and that terrible Haitian history, turning it into a land to which one can truly belong only in exile. All seen through the eyes of this middle-aged Odysseus returning to an overcrowded Ithaca where poverty and beauty go hand in hand.

I have to say that there were sections in the middle of the book where I could not discern much direction. Laferrière meets up with person after person whose main interest in meeting him seems to be "to confirm that they are not dead." The prose thickens and pushes out the verse. But then at the very end, the opposite happens. Laferrière goes to Baradères, the little village on the coast where his father was born. The prose ends. The verse becomes more poetic, at one point even evoking Rimbaud. In the shade of a banana tree, time is suspended. Finally, a true arrival . . . but one that feels like a kind of farewell.

*The French edition is available at reasonable price through Amazon.ca.

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