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Return Paperback – Aug 26 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & Mcintyre (Aug. 26 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1553658086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553658085
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #113,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By j'aimelire on Nov. 2 2011
Format: Paperback
M. Laferriere is one good writer. This book is poesy in prose, so beautifully written that I could savor each sentence with delight.I read it twice and I keep this book as precious litterature. Will read it again in my old age!!!!My only disappointment is that I already read this book in french(l'enigme du retour" )and I thought this was his latest book about life in Haiti... L'enigme du retour" and "pays sans chapeau" are his best on my opinion. Just delicious writing.I am still waiting for his next book. I am thrilled that Laferriere has been translated in english. better read it in french, if you can.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lauren B. Davis on May 12 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a BRILLIANT book. How to describe it? Part poetry, party novel, part meditation. Dany Laferriere uses language and form in a way that is unique and perfect for this work. The novel/memoir/poem begins with the author-narrator learning of the death of his estranged father in New York. Windsor Laferriere left Haiti in the 1960s, fleeing the persecution of Papa Doc Duvalier's brutal regime, just as Dany would later leave it in 1976, fleeing the similarly savage repression of Baby Doc Duvalier. Fathers and sons. Legacies of loss.

We follow the narrator to NYC, where he looks upon the body of the father he has not seen in fifty years, in his coffin. He begins to touch him, and then chooses not to, honoring the distance his father preferred. It's a heartbreaking moment, and there are many of them in this book.

While it's true that were I a poetry critic, perhaps I would find fault with the technical aspects of some of the poetry (Are some of the lines cliche? Are some of the images too abstract? Some of the line break arbitrary?). However, I am not a poetry critic, but rather a prose writer and novelist, and so I look at the work as a whole, as a narrative, and I judge it by it's capacity to move me, to broaden my empathy and to care about the characters. By this measure, it could not be more successful. This work is piquant with loss, spiced with longing. It is also political -- the discussion of hunger as the essential Haitian experience is powerful, as are the sections with his nephew, also named Dany. "We didn't know you were coming back," says his sister by way of explanation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Where is home? Jan. 18 2013
By Friederike Knabe - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
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? A phone call in the night brings the news that his father, who spend most of the son's life in exile, has died in New York. It is only the son who can bring the devastating news to the mother, left behind in her village. Wilbert embarks on the journey that takes him on a meandering path via New York to Haiti, cautiously rediscovering what he remembers of his childhood days, making connections first with strangers, exploring the city, Port au Prince, staying away from family and friends. Slowly, he connects again with his nephew and then his sister and, after reaching a certain comfort level, does he feel strong enough emotionally to visit his mother and, even later, search for his father's village and people. Both parents and their stories come alive in his memories and his poems.

The title of the French original conveys an important aspect of the novel that the English translation cannot: the "enigma" of returning. The evocation of mystery is prominent and the Wilbert's journey is as much into the known past as into the unknown present and future. In physical terms it is expressed through recognizing changed landscapes, changed circumstances of the people he knew. Yet, for me even captivating is the psychological level where the middle aged man has to confront his childhood longings, how he may be able to bring the past and the present into some form of balance and ultimately, who he is and where he should be. Where is home? [Friederike Knabe]

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