Interpretations is a club where we dive into fresh English translations of stand-out fiction from around the world.
This month the club will be discussing Dézafi by Frankétienne, translated by Asselin Charles.
** We will be gathering virtually on Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84717843345?pwd=akZjd2pxbUV6UHRDNGFCclpSQnp6UT09
If you'd like to join and haven't used Zoom-- sign up for a free account and download Zoom prior to the meeting. It's pretty easy to get set up, but here's a linked video describing the process. **
Dézafi is no ordinary zombie novel. In the hands of the great Haitian author known simply as Frankétienne, zombification takes on a symbolic dimension that stands as a potent commentary on a country haunted by a history of slavery. Now this dynamic new translation brings this touchstone in Haitian literature to English-language readers for the first time.
Written in a provocative experimental style, with a myriad of voices and combining myth, poetry, allegory, magical realism, and social realism, Dézafi tells the tale of a plantation that is run and worked by zombies for the financial benefit of the living owner. The owner's daughter falls in love with a zombie and facilitates his transformation back into fully human form, leading to a rebellion that challenges the oppressive imbalance that had robbed the workers of their spirit. With the walking dead and bloody cockfights (the "dézafi" of the title) as cultural metaphors for Haitian existence, Frankétienne's novel is ultimately a powerful allegory of political and social liberation.
"His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble. It's a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can't imagine Haitian literature ever existing without." --Edwidge Danticat
Frankétienne is a prolific novelist, painter, playwright, musician and poet. Widely recognized as Haiti's most important literary figure and an outspoken challenger of political oppression, Frankétienne was a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009. The New York Times has called Frankétienne "the Father of Haitian Letters." He has a unique style, often blending French and Haitian Creole and inventing new words.
Asselin Charles is a comparative literature specialist and translator.
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