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Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy (Modern Library) Hardcover – August 4, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; F First Edition edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679643516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679643517
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,652,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Marie Vieux-Chauvet, a seminal writer of postoccupation Haiti, was born in Port-au-Prince in 1916 and died in New York in 1973. She is the author of five novels, including Dance on the Volcano, Fonds des Nègres, Fille d’Haiti, and Les Rapaces.

Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokur have translated two novels by Patrick Chamoiseau, Solibo Magnificent and Texaco, the latter of which won the American Translators Association Galantière Prize for Best Book. Their translation of Love, Anger, Madness was supported by a Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

Edwidge Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She is the author of Brother, I’m Dying; Breath, Eyes, Memory; Krik? Krak!; The Farming of Bones; and The Dew Breaker. She lives in Miami with her husband and two daughters.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Love



Quietly, like a shadow, I watch this drama unfold scene by scene. I am the lucid one here, the dangerous one, and nobody suspects. An old maid! No husband. Doesn’t know love. Hasn’t even lived, really. They’re wrong. In any case, I’m savoring my revenge in silence. Silence is mine, vengeance is mine. I know into whose arms Annette will throw herself, and under no circumstances do I plan to open the eyes of our sister Félicia. She is too enraptured and carries the three-month-old fetus in her womb with too much pride. If she was smart enough to find herself a husband, I want her to be smart enough to keep him. She has too much confidence—in herself, in everyone. Her serenity exasperates me. She smiles while sewing shirts for the son she’s expecting, because of course it must be a son! And Annette will be the godmother, I bet . . .

I rest my elbows on the bedroom windowsill, and watch: standing in broad daylight, Annette offers Jean Luze the freshness of her twenty-two years. Their backs to Félicia, they claim each other without the slightest gesture. Desire bursting in their eyes. Jean Luze struggles, but there is no way out.

I am thirty-nine years old and still a virgin. The unenviable fate of most women in small Haitian towns. Is it like that everywhere? Are there towns in the world like this one, half mired in ancestral habits, people spying on each other? My town! My land! as they proudly call this dreary graveyard, where you see few men besides the doctor, the pharmacist, the priest, the district commandant, the mayor, the prefect, all of them newly appointed to their posts, all of them such typical “coast people” that it’s nauseating. Suitors are exotic birds, since parents here always dream of sending their sons away to Port-au-Prince or abroad to make learned men of them. One of them came back to us in the person of Dr. Audier, who studied in Paris and in whom I still search in vain for something superhuman . . .

I was born in 1900, a time when prejudice was at its height in this little region. Three groups emerged, isolated from each other like enemies: the “aristocrats” to whom we belonged, the petty bourgeois, and the common people. Tugged at by the delicate ambiguity of my situation, I suffered from an early age because of the dark color of my skin. The mahogany color I had inherited from some great-great-grandmother went off like a small bomb in the tight circle of whites and white-mulattoes with whom my parents socialized. But that is the past, and I don’t care to return to what is no more, at least not for now . . .

Father Paul says I have poisoned my mind with education. The truth is that my wits were asleep and I have stirred them—with this journal. I have discovered in myself unsuspected talents. I believe I can write. I believe I can think. I have become arrogant. I have become self-conscious. To reduce my inner life to what the eye can see, that’s my goal. A noble task! Will I succeed? To speak of myself is easy. All I have to do is lie a lot while convincing myself that I’m really putting my finger on it. I will attempt sincerity: solitude has made me bitter; I am like a fruit fallen before ripening, rotting under the tree unnoticed. Hurrah for Annette! After Justin Rollier, the poet who died of tuberculosis, there was Bob the Syrian; after Bob now Jean, brother-in-law to us both—and she is not yet twenty-three. Our little town of X is emancipating itself. It would seem we have been contaminated by what they call civilization.

I am the oldest of the three Clamont sisters. There are about eight years in age between each of us. We live together in this house, an undivided inheritance from our late parents. As usual, I have been entrusted with the more vexing tasks. You have nothing to do, so keep busy, they seem to say. And they have handed the keys to both house and strongbox over to me. I am at once servant and mistress of the house, a kind of housekeeper on whose shoulders rests the daily round of their lives. As recompense, each gives me something to live on. Annette works. A nice bourgeois girl ruined, cornered by circumstances, floundering shamelessly in compromise and promiscuity, and where else but as a salesgirl with Bob Charivi, a Syrian of the worst sort with a store on Grand-rue. Jean Luze, Félicia’s husband, a handsome Frenchman, beached on our welcoming shores by who knows what miracle, is in the employ of Mr. Long, an American executive who has been here for ten years. I need very little, and thanks to them I am gathering a fortune. I have developed a sordid miserliness in my old age. You should see me patiently counting my nest egg each month. “It’s dreadful,” Annette likes to say, “how Claire neglects herself!”

Félicia shrugs.

Since she got married, only Jean Luze exists. Gorgeous Jean Luze! Brilliant Jean Luze! The exotic and mysterious foreigner, who has set up his library and record collection in our house, and makes fun of our backward way of living and thinking. A flawless man, an ideal husband. Félicia’s cup overfloweth with love and admiration. I won’t be the one to open her eyes. From my window, I spy on their every move. This is how I came to find Annette in the arms of her Syrian boss one night. She was in the back of the car they had parked halfway in the garage. I saw everything, heard everything, despite all the precautions they were taking in order not to wake Félicia. They hadn’t thought of me. How could the old maid, uninterested in anything having to do with love, suspect them for one moment? That affair lasted until Félicia’s engagement. After that, everything fell apart for Annette again . . .

Félicia is of average height and on the voluptuous side, light-skinned with bland blond hair and the delicate features of a white woman. Although Annette is white too, there is gold under her skin. And her hair is black, blue-black like her eyes. Except for the skin color, she is a touched-up copy of me sixteen years ago. These two white-mulatto girls are my sisters. I am the surprise that mixed blood had in store for my parents, no doubt an unpleasant surprise in their day, given how they made me suffer . . . Times have changed, and I have learned with age to appreciate what has been given me. History is on the move and so is fashion, fortunately . . .

Jean Luze stares at Annette. He is struggling. And yet he knows very well that he will give in. When she has a man on the brain—and I have paid dearly for this bit of knowledge—she doesn’t give him up easily. And this one is among the most glamorous I have ever seen. The broad strides he takes in the yard! The way he climbs the stairs! His voice so young, so cheerful, and yet somewhat subdued and unaware of the cheer it spreads. His perfect speech! The way his gaze caresses everything so casually. Even me.

“Claire, how are you doing?”

He passes me by and goes up to his room, their room. But he doesn’t desire Félicia anymore, that much I know. Annette is the one on his mind. Besides, Félicia is ill served by her pregnancy. She is in no shape to defend herself. Her smile is more and more trusting, more and more mawkish, as Annette’s glances become more aggressive, more tormenting. How will this end? I keep vigil. I stand in the wings, I don’t exist for them. I push them onstage skillfully, without ever seeming to intervene, and yet I am directing. If only by the way I encourage Félicia to rest on the chaise longue on the balcony, all the while knowing that Annette and Jean Luze will be alone together downstairs in the dining room . . .

I close the doors, seemingly indifferent, and I wait. They stand there silent, devouring each other with their eyes, senses melting as they move in for the kill. This is not the right time yet. Annette cannot forget that Jean Luze is her brother-in-law, nor he that she is his wife’s sister.

For a while now we’ve been hanging our heads like snarling dogs, harassed as we are by fear, by the summer, the sun, by hunger and all that comes of it. The hurricanes are responsible, unleashed by God to punish us for what Father Paul calls our lack of faith and our weaknesses.

We stick out our tongues in this terrible sun in the throes of a Hai-tian summer. A thick, enormous, slavering tongue, licking at our skin, cutting off our breath. We are being cooked alive. Our sweat flows without pause. There is no moisture in the air, and the coffee, the only source of wealth around here, is drying up. Any day now, Eugénie Duclan, a friend of Father Paul the parish priest, will organize processions to persuade the clouds.

“Rain is a blessing from heaven,” Father Paul asserts in a very Hai-tian way during the course of his sermons.

So then we are cursed! Hurricanes, earthquakes and drought, nothing spares us. The beggars outnumber us. The survivors of the last hurricane, crippled and half-naked, haunt our gates. Everyone pretends not to see them. Hasn’t the poverty of others always been with us? After growing for the last ten years, it has the frozen face of habit. There have always been those who eat and those who fall asleep with an empty stomach. My father, a planter as well as a speculator, with over six hundred acres of land planted with coffee, accused the hungry of laziness.

“What is it that you do for a living?” he would say to those imploring him for a handout. And then he would answer his own question: “You beg.”

“Heartless!” Tonton Mathurin1 would cry out, “heartless!” Ah, the brave Tonton Mathurin we had learned to fear as if he were the very devil! He’s been dead twenty years now, and all these twenty years I always think I see him standing there when I pass his front door, draped in his old houpland2 and spitting at my father . . .

...

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Veronica Franco on April 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
As soon as I read the first few pages in the "look inside this book" feature, I knew I had to read this book. Her narration is so lyrical, the characters so well developed that it was a treat reading these three short novels. I felt as I was there with the characters. With just a few brushtrokes, the author creates an engaging and vivid tale that is hard to put down.

Before reading this book, I knew little to nothing about the bloody history of Haiti, that is the backdrop to each of the stories. I really recommend this book. I don't usually write reviews, but since I noticed only a few people have done so, I thought I would do my part in introducing you to this gem of a book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Wafer MD on January 31, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book on the Haiti during the 1950's. the author writes very well and describes each of her characters in detail, such that you get to hear what each is saying or not and what they are thinking. She describes a country under a demonic police force and the Hatian cast system and the self destructive revenge each character has toward others.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mere Bruner on December 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
What do you picture when you think of Haiti? Do you see an island ravaged by an earthquake, littered with tent cities? Do you hear the cries of people wading in the flooded streets, suffering from cholera? For many people this is all they know of Haiti, and this knowledge is only a result of recent media attention. These are only the contemporary struggles of a country that has a past of violence and oppression. In Marie Vieux-Chauvet's novella Anger, we are presented with an honest depiction of Haiti during the reign of Duvalier. The military occupation, and oppression result in corrupt and unbearable environment where anyone who opposes the government is treated with zero-tolerance, and the government is held accountable for nothing.
The story is set during the post World War I period of American occupation, however, parallels can be drawn to the exceedingly violent and oppressive period of time when Duvalier was in power. The black shirts for instance bear a resemblance to the Tonton Macoutes. There is the same communal fear in Anger of the black shirts ruthless policies on resistance. The similarities were so great that Vieux-Chauvet could not widely publish her book, and had to flee the country. The triptych Love, Anger, Madness was published in English for the first time in 2009 over sixty years after it was originally written.
Anger tells the story of the Normil family, an average middle class family whose livelihood is destroyed when the black shirts seize their land. Each member of the family individually strives to fight the black shirts, which results in a demoralizing struggle that leads each of them to ruin. The novella is saturated with emotion and each character's struggle against the system is fueled by their rage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Troy Johnson on March 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
The Modern Library recently published for the first time in English, the late Haitian author Marie Vieux-Chauvet's novella trilogy, Love, Anger, Madness. The three novellas are about Haiti when it was under military control during the mid-twentieth century. Vieux-Chauvet examines the country's social and political structures under military oppression, giving voice to the injustice and tragedies that the Haitian people endured. While reading the collection; I was stunned and swept away by the image of Haiti from Vieux-Chauvet's observant, honest, and uncompromising view of the Haitian people and human nature. My eyes were open to a country and a people that I had never seen before and the stories of their lives told in a compassionate, strong, yet gorgeous poetic voice. Love, Anger, Madness is a newly discovered classic that is waiting to claim its right place in literary greatness.

With Love, Anger, Madness, Vieux-Chauvet accomplished a mission that many authors have tried and failed: blending a political message within a story while neither the story or the message suffering from the mixing. Vieux-Chauvet wrote passages about the landscape of Haiti with such love and beauty that it was heartrending reading it. With the same voice, Vieux-Chauvet showed the dehumanization and demoralization that military occupation had on a society, culture and its people. In lieu of preaching to me or at me, Vieux-Chauvet used the novellas to drive the point home, and it's dead on target. I became enraged by the injustice of it all, which I suppose was the desired effect.

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