Lyonel Trouillot is one of Haiti’s best known contemporary writers. He comes from a remarkable family: his brother, Michel Rolph Trouillot, is a brilliant and well-known anthropologist, while his sister Evelyn is also a well-known novelist in Haiti. He stands out in his generation of writers because he has never gone into exile, unlike many others, writing consistently from within Haiti and about events in the country. (Another writer who has a similar trajectory is Franketienne, who has written novels in Haitian Creole as well as French). Trouillot also has a regular radio program, and has written poetry and lyrics for popular songs. He also write for several newspapers in Haiti. A list of all his his works is available here.
The two novels by Lyonel Trouillot we will be reading (Children of Heroes for the English section, and Bicentenaire for the French section) are both short, dramatic portraits of life and Haiti. But both are also very complex in their construction, seeking to represent both a particular historical moment and the broader weight of the past in a short text. Bicentenaire dwells more directly on the question of how a novel should and can represent a certain event, and indeed opens with an interesting meditation on the relationship between a particular historical event — the student demonstrations against Aristide in 2004 — and his novel. In Children of Heroes, the past of the Haitian Revolution is present in the statues of heroes in downtown Port-au-Prince, but the novel centers on an act of violence resistance in the present by two children. (You can read a review of the English translation of Children of Heroes here).
We’ll be discussing Trouillot’s approach during lecture on Tuesday. In preparation for that, here are a few videos that can give you a sense of his work. All are in French, since he has rarely given interview in English. As you watch the first two videos, you can also think about (and perhaps critique) the ways in which the the French press presents the novels as well; and you can think about and try to characterize Trouillot’s political position on foreign aid — a topic taken up in other posts on the blog — when you watch the third video.
In preparation for our discussion on Thursday, please share some of your reactions to the novels and/or these videos in the comments section. If you find other materials of interest about Trouillot, please share them as well. Please post your comments by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.