Synopses & Reviews
Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic flows a river filled with ghosts, Edwige Danticat writes in her superb preface to Massacre River
: Over time the river has been the site of several massacres including the one which is the subject of this tour de force by Rene Philoctète.
In 1937 the power-mad racist Generalissimo Trujillo ordered the slaughter of thousands and thousands of Haitians and, as Philoctète puts it, death set up shop everywhere. At the heart of Massacre River is the loving marriage of the Dominican Pedro and the Haitian Ade le in a little town on the Dominican border. On his way to work, Pedro worries that a massacre is in the making; an olive-drab truck packed with armed soldiers rumbles by. And then the church bells begin to ring, and there is the relentless voice on the radio everywhere, urging the slaughter of all the Haitians. Operation Cabezas Haitianas (Haitian Heads) is underway, the soldiers shout, Perejil Parsley ] Perish Punish Haitians try to pronounce perejil correctly, but fail, and weep. The town is in an uproar, Adele is ordered to say perejil but stammers. And Pedro runs home and searches for his beloved wife, searches and searches... The characters of this book not only inspired the love and outrage of an extraordinary writer like Philoctète, writes Edwige Danticat, but continue to challenge the meaning of community and humanity in all of us.
"[A] tour de force by an extraordinary writer." Edwidge Danticat
By the acclaimed Haitian poet and scholar René Philoctète, the novel Massacre River: "a tour de force by an extraordinary writer" (Edwidge Danticat).
Nestled along a border, Haitians and Dominicans have lived as one people for generations. But in 1937, when Generalissimo Trujillo"the Lord of demented death"orders the slaughter of all "Haitian devils," a monstrous raptor appears in the sky over the little Dominican town of Elias Piña, brooding a nightmare. Desperate to save Adèle, the Haitian wife he cherishes, the Dominican Pedro Brito sets out into the dawnand so begins Massacre River, a tale unlike any other, where machetes can fly, severed heads demand justice, towns are flooded by "the foaming filth of genocides," the wind thinks it's a radio, and a word can literally cut throats. At the heart of this kaleidoscopic drama is the loving and sensual bond between Pedro and Adèle, tenderly evoked in language of astonishing inventiveness by a narrative voice that can turn on a dime, careening through young romance, heartbreak, skin-crawling evil, and Looney Tunes madness to a tumultuous, breathtaking finale worthy of Hieronymus Bosch.
About the Author
Reneé Philoctète (1932-1995), was born in Jérémie, Haiti. Inspired by Arthur Rimbaud, he published ten poetry collections, four plays, and three novels. In the early 1960s, he founded the Group Haiti Littéraire, and then a few years later was cofounder of the Spiralistesthe most important movement in Haitian poetry of the 20th century. Lyonell Trouillot has called him "the Haitian writer par excellence."