Included in 10 Best New Books to Read This May, Chicago Review of Books.
Originally published in 1988 and written by one of Haiti's seminal authors, still with us at age 90, this vibrant, erotically charged work shows how humans counter fear--particularly the fear of death--in varied more or less magical ways, even as it paints a fresh and enticing picture of Haitian culture. . .Luscious and affirmative reading, this is work both the serious-minded and the lighthearted can enjoy.
--Library Journal, Starred review
Depestre presents a rich and nuanced exploration of large and significant themes expertly couched in one fantastical, expertly translated tale.
, Starred review
One-of-a-kind... A] ribald, free-wheeling magical-realist novel, first published in 1988 and newly, engagingly translated by Glover. . .An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted m lange of ghost story, cultural inquiry, folk art, and v ritable l'amour
The sights and sounds of Haiti's vibrant carnival season invigorate this tale of vodou and Haitian culture. . .The truth of Hadriana's fate proves more poignant than horrifying, but in Depestre's hands, this incident is a touchstone of a culture in which distinctions between the empirical and spiritual are obscured, and whose traditional celebrations and beliefs introduce an element of the mythic into the everyday. Eroticism and humor course through his narrative. Depestre's intimacy with his subject matter and his familiarity with the people he portrays--the story is set in his hometown, at the time when he was 12 years old--give readers an insider's look at Jacmelian culture.
For the first time, this slim and beguiling novel about the mysterious death and possible zombification of a young woman on her wedding day has been translated into English...With its lyrical commentary on the origins of myth, this mesmeric and frequently erotic work transcends its focus on a young woman to address the complexities of race, class and religion.
--Shelf Awareness for Readers, Starred Review
With a foreword by Edwidge Danticat. Translated from the French by Kaiama L. Glover. Hadriana in All My Dreams
, winner of the prestigious Prix Renaudot, takes place primarily during Carnival in 1938 in the Haitian village of Jacmel. A beautiful young French woman, Hadriana, is about to marry a Haitian boy from a prominent family. But on the morning of the wedding, Hadriana drinks a mysterious potion and collapses at the altar. Transformed into a zombie, her wedding becomes her funeral. She is buried by the town, revived by an evil sorcerer, and then disappears into popular legend.
Set against a backdrop of magic and eroticism, and recounted with delirious humor, the novel raises universal questions about race and sexuality. The reader comes away enchanted by the marvelous reality of Haiti's Vodou culture and convinced of Depestre's lusty claim that all beings--even the undead ones--have a right to happiness and true love.
From the introduction by Edwidge Danticat: Despestre offers us the kind of tale we rarely get in the hundreds of zombie stories featuring Haitians, stories set both inside and outside of Haiti. In
Hadriana in All My Dreams we get both
langaj--the secret language of Haitian Vodou--as well as the type of descriptive, elegiac, erotic, and satirical language, and the artistic license needed to create this most nuanced and powerful novel.
Kaiama L. Glover is an associate professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon
, coeditor of Yale French Studies' Revisiting Marie Vieux-Chauvet: Paradoxes of Postcolonial Feminine
(issue no. 128), and translator of Frenk tienne's Ready to Burst
and Marie Vieux-Chauvet's Dance on the Volcano
. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the Fulbright Foundation.
"Hadriana In All My Dreams is a compelling monograph. Surreal and imaginative, it is written with a dark richness and poignancy that is void of sensationalism and hyperbole. This is fictional realism at its best, and author René Depestre proves his salt as a master craftsman."
--The Gleaner (Jamaica)
"The story is an extended love letter to author René Depestre's hometown, its creole culture, its architecture, and its annual Carnival. Visitors to Jacmel can trace the exact route of the narrative through the streets of the town, and next to the crumbling, stately mansion Depestre depicted as Hadiana's manor, a public staircase is decorated with a mosaic spelling out the opening lines of the novel."
--Caribbean Beat Magazine
"The most important thing a work-in-translation can offer a reader [is] perspective on a place, people, and language we don't immediately have access to, or one that runs counter to conventional, cliche narratives. Glover's book does that in aces."
--Words Without Borders
"Zombies, voodoo, and a sex-crazed boy-turned-butterfly are all facts of everyday life in Depestre's...colorful, magic-suffused novel."
--Kirkus Reviews, Catherine Hickey's Foreign Influence column
"A slim and beautiful novel about death, sex, and Haitian myth...A dreamlike novel that blends eye-witness testimony to the possible zombification of Hadriana with the villagers' erotic and fanciful half-memories of Haiti's thorny history."
--Kaima L. Glover (translator), Chicago Review
"The story is beautifully written in lyrical prose...Readers interested in Haitian culture will appreciate this novel and will enjoy Depestre's details about the voodoo culture as it was understood in the first half of the 20th century."
--Historical Novels Review
"An exceptional novel...Depestre's masterpiece and one of the greatest examples of Haitian literature."
--New York Journal of Books
"You've never read about a zombie like Hadriana. Transformed into the walking dead on her wedding day, Hadriana becomes part of popular legend, one imbued with magic, eroticism, and even humor."
"You do not need to believe in zombies or Vodou to be carried away by this story--a metaphor for all forms of dispossession. . .René Depestre has gone beyond nostalgia to write a sumptuous love story."
"Depestre, a grandfather of Haitian literature, spins a sensuous romp that serves up equal helpings of the historically contemplative and the handsomely entertaining...Hadriana in All My Dreams opens its narrative palm cheekily, cleverly, to reveal the kernel-truth of Jacmelian life, of a resurrected beauty's power beyond pulchritude. It's a story that contains its own universe, tucked irresistibly into an evening's riotous, ruddy-cheeked read...suitable for sneaking into weddings and funerals alike."
--Caribbean Beat Magazine