By Yanick Lahens
Translated by Kaiama L. Glover
Yanick Lahens leads us into a breathless intrigue with her newest portrait of Haiti, Sweet Undoings.
Publication Date: 4/11/23
In Port-au-Prince, violence never consumes. It finds its counterpart in a "high-pitched sweetness", a sweetness that overwhelms Francis, a French journalist, one evening at the Korosòl Resto-Bar, when the broken and deep voice of lounge singer Brune rises from the microphone.
Brune's father, Judge Berthier, was assassinated, guilty of maintaining integrity in a city where everything is bought. Six months after this disappearance, Brune wholly refuses to come to terms with what has happened. Her uncle Pierre, a gay man who spent his youth abroad to avoid persecution, refuses to give up on solving this still unpunished crime as well.
Alongside Brune and Pierre, Francis becomes acquainted with myriad other voices of Port-au-Prince: Ezekiel, the poet desperate to escape his miserable neighborhood; Nerline, women's rights activist; Waner, diligent pacifist; and Ronny the American, at home in Haiti as in a second homeland.
Nourishing its power from the bowels of the city, Sweet Undoings moves with a rapid, electric syncopation, gradually and tenderly revealing the intimacy of the lives within.
Yanick Lahens was born in Port-au-Prince in 1953. After attending school and university in France, she returned to Haiti, where she taught literature at the university in Port-au-Prince and worked for the Ministry of Culture. Her first novel was published in 2000, and she won the prestigious Prix Femina in 2014 and a French Voices Award in 2015 for Moonbath. An English translation of Moonbath (tr. Emily Gogolak) was published by Deep Vellum in 2017.
Kaiama L. Glover is a writer, translator, and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College, as well as founding co-editor of archipelagos. She is the translator of Ready to Burst by Frankétienne (Archipelago, 2014), Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux Chauvet (Archipelago, 2017) and Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre (Akashic Books, 2017).