BOMB THE ROOT: The Evelyne Trouillot Interview

In this 2004 interview culled from BOMB Magazine’s Digital Archives, Haitian writer Evelyne Trouillot talks to Edwidge Danticat about Haiti’s complex history of violent political unrest.

Posted:
 
bombtrouillot

Little known in the United States outside of academic circles, Evelyne Trouillot is one of Haiti's most celebrated intellectual thinkers. A prolific writer, Trouillot has authored numerous children's books, a collection of poetry and a collection of short stories, numerous plays, two novels, and countless essays and articles in both the mainstream and academic press. True to her Caribbean roots, Trouillot writes in French, Creole, and English, and has examined the current state of the Creole and French languages in Haitian society in a number of academic papers.

 

This 2005 discussion between Trouillot and Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat is a standout in the BOMB Magazine series  because more than any other, the interview is truly a conversation between two artistic equals than a traditional Q&A. In it, Trouillot and Danticat discuss Haiti's complex history of violent political unrest and natural disasters and how each has dealt with that legacy in and through their work.

 

Read the full interview from BOMB Magazine Issue 90, Winter 2005.

 —Adda Birnir

 

INTERVIEW:

Edwidge Danticat: In September 2004, Haiti experienced yet another national disaster. As the third of three devastating storms—Tropical Storm Jeanne—raged through the Caribbean, it struck Haiti’s fourth largest city, the port city of Gonaïves, the birthplace of the country’s 200-year-old independence, leaving 3,000 people dead and a quarter of a million homeless. In one of the city’s largest hospitals, patients drowned in their beds. In surrounding houses, parents watched helplessly as their children were swept away. Fields and livestock representing years of Herculean labor were washed into the sea because the nude, eroded soil offered little resistance to the flash floods and mudslides. What was your first reaction to this catastrophe? I was told that you sat down and wrote a poem.

Evelyne Trouillot: In Haiti this year we have had many terrible events: the days before and after the departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the flooding of Fonds-Verrettes and Mapou in May 2004 and now the Gonaïves disaster. We all hope that the remainder of the year will be peaceful. But we also know that the country is going through an important period that requires all of our energy, our spirit and our creativity. When I learned of the Gonaïves tragedy, I went through a period of shock and sadness, a kind of numbness where the mind refuses to work and the senses can only register the sorrow. I wished for the power to change things, to erase the sadness, but like so many others, I felt helpless. It is one thing to intellectually understand the social, economic and ecological reasons for such a catastrophe, but it is something else to grasp that thousands of human beings, compatriots, women and children, young and old have lost their lives. I was sick. I’m still sick, and when I’m sick I write. With the pain still inside, and it will stay forever, I wrote a short story for children, about a girl who survived the Gonaïves flooding and who must live with her sadness. Then I wrote a poem that will be part of an anthology project to benefit the people of Gonaïves, specifically to enable the reconstruction of libraries and cultural centers that were destroyed.

The Root 100 People's Choice Awards  
Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM