Frankétienne. Translated by Asselin Charles. Afterword by Jean Jonassaint
Dézafi is no ordinary zombie novel. In the hands of the great Haitian author known simply as Frankétienne, zombification takes on a symbolic dimension that stands as a potent commentary on a country haunted by a history of slavery. Now this dynamic new translation brings this touchstone in Haitian literature to English-language readers for the first time.
Written in a provocative experimental style, with a myriad of voices and combining myth, poetry, allegory, magical realism, and social realism, Dézafi tells the tale of a plantation that is run and worked by zombies for the financial benefit of the living owner. The owner’s daughter falls in love with the zombie overseer and facilitates his transformation back into fully human form, leading to a rebellion that challenges the oppressive imbalance that had robbed the workers of their spirit. With the walking dead and bloody cockfights (the « dézafi » of the title) as cultural metaphors for Haitian existence, Frankétienne’s novel is ultimately a powerful allegory of political and social liberation.
« His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble. It’s a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can’t imagine Haitian literature ever existing without. »
« He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever. »
Jean Jonassaint, Syracuse University
« The book is a literary and linguistic treasure that allows anyone interested in that period to delve into the complexity of Haitian history, culture, language, religion as well as issues of class, gender, identity, and power. »
Cécile Accilien, Director of the Institute of Haitian Studies, University of Kansas
About the Author
Frankétienne, called « the father of Haitian letters » by the New York Times, is the author of numerous novels, plays, and works of poetry. A past Nobel candidate, he is the recipient of France’s Order of Arts and Letters and has been named a UNESCO Artist for Peace.