By Bianca Silva
Haitian author Frankétienne’s iconic novel, Dézafi, first published in Haitian Creole in 1975, explores the themes of oppression, rebellion and liberation wrapped within Haiti’s socio-political situation in the 1970s. The most notable plot is the tale of zombies working in plantations where the daughter of the plantation owner falls in love with a zombie and eventually becomes fully human. The zombies eventually gain the courage to revolt against their oppressor.
More than 40 years since its initial publication, Frankétienne, often known as the “father of Haitian letters,” is embarking on a book tour in honor of publication of the English translation of Dézafi. The author will be at Syracuse University on March 25 and 26 to discuss the novel and the reasons behind publishing an English version of it.
The event is part of a larger book tour for Frankétienne, where he’ll also be speaking at Brooklyn College on March 19 in addition to making stops at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia.
Frankétienne will be accompanied by Dr. Asselin Charles, who worked on the English translation of the novel. Charles had previously translated his play, Pèlentèt (The Noose), which was performed at the New York Theater Festival and has translated other prominent literary works including De l’Égalité des Races Humaines (The Equality of the Human
Races) and Alléluia pour une femme-jardin (Alleluia for a Garden Woman).
The Syracuse book event is organized by Dr. Jean Jonassaint, a professor at the university who teaches French and Francophone studies. Given the relevance of the novel, Jonassaint explains how the themes of the novel can be easily applied to today’s society.
“Even in the U.S., you have some people living in very poor conditions,” he says. “We don’t talk too much about that but there are still some people who live in poor conditions but it’s still possible for a lot of people to relate to this story.”
Over the two-day span, which includes a Q&A with the author, there will also be a book signing of the English translation of the novel, a film screening surrounding the significance of the novel and an exhibition of his paintings and manuscripts.
While there’s not a large Haitian-American population on campus, Jonassaint is confident that the students at Syracuse, including the black community on campus will attend and be interested in what Frankétienne brings to the table.
“The main goal of his visit is to allow the SU community to be in touch with one of the greatest writers alive,” he says. “We are taking some measures in that there are so many people are excited.”