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Novel set in Haiti (a bit of goudou goudou)

22nd February 2015

God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Léger, novel set in Haiti.

IMG_0039The pall and detritus hang thick over Port au Prince, where the earthquake of January 2010 has decimated the city and its people. Well over 100,000 people died and the aftershocks continued for quite some time “…death was so spectacularly random and massive…”

Léger is hugely adept at capturing the mood, fear and the feel of such a cataclysmic event – the UN peacekeepers pour in, the planes hover overhead, the dust floats around and settles and then spirals again. Against this backdrop he sets what is billed a ‘romantic comedy’, a musical theatre intertwined with a puff of magical realism: the odd ghost surfaces, and Saint Peter challenges the dead as they try and negotiate their way into Heaven. In the aftermath the accoutrements of normal life arrive in the shape of an Evian bottle and a sandwich, proffered by the likes of Captain Waugh, a dark-eyed London cop turned blue-helmeted neocolonialist masquerading as a peacekeeper. 

Artist Natasha Robert is a newlywed, but not just any newlywed. From an achingly poor background, she is now married to the president of Haiti and at the point of the earthquake, they are just boarding their plane that will whisk them to a new future in Italy – an infinitely better prospect than their presidential predecessors, one of whom has landed, defrocked, in South Africa, another exists in the Central African Republic. As the earthquake strikes, Natasha in slow motion it almost seems, mounts the steps of the plane, but she is fraught with concern for her future with her 40 year older husband, having just abandoned her lover – it was a clear and abrupt ending of that relationship prior to her departure, and naturally her lover, the eponymously named Alain Destiné is indeed left to ponder his destiny, in the nude, locked in a thickly carpeted closet, in the Presidential Palace.

Post earthquake, Natasha flees to the National Cathedral where the ‘tone of grave and perpetual mourning’ reflects her own sombre and guilt-ridden mood, where she keeps the dying Monsignor company. But soon the ecclesiastical environment exerts its influence over her and the story moves on. What becomes of Natasha, Alain and the President?

This is a picaresque novel with more than a nod to Voltaire’s Candide, sharp wit and insightful portrayals of the human condition. Combine the corrupt politics, morals, culture of Haiti and some sexual shenanigans, there is a solid building block for a story. This is a novel, full of colour and vibrancy but as fractured as the lives it describes.

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