douard Jean. Toussaint Dirige Vers la Bataille
This area is for articles on Literature in Haiti. We invite you to include other articles here.
Despite Haiti's independence, French has remained the country's official language. Perceived as a language of great cultural prestige, French was spoken by the elite, and Creole did not enter the literary field until the second half of the 20th century. The indianists of the 1930s and the NĂ©gritude movement (incarnated in Haiti by Jean Price-Mars) emphasized the African origins of Antillean people, giving it an identity lost in deportation and later colonization. But, for them, Creole was still considered an impure language of slavery.
The CrĂ©olitĂ© movement, which succeeded them, rehabilitated the Creole, which no longer was only the language of slavery, but "that which we made together to survive". A shift was brought about in Haitian literature, from French to Creole, or du franĂ§ais vers le crĂ©ole, or rather a dialogue between the two languages.
Creole is used frequently in poetry and drama. FrankĂ©tienne, for example, writes his plays only in Creole. An oral language, Creole is particularly suited in these genres elevating the voice. (Even though all Haitians speak and understand Creole, many cannot read it.) In novels, the two languages are sometimes used together, creating a new and original way of writing.
The nineteenth century
Haitian literature has its origins in the country's independence. In the eighteenth century, settlers published descriptive and political works in France.
In 1804, Fligneau's play The Haitian expatriate made its debut. But the ruling classes and the intellectual elites in the emerging Haitian state remain imbued with French culture. There was a patriotic vein that recounted the deeds of convulsive independence. It adopted, over the 19th century, the successive literary currents coming from France: classicism, romanticism, Parnassianism, and symbolism. Major authors of this period include Antoine DuprĂ© (1782â€“1816), Juste Chanlatte (1766â€“1828), FranĂ§ois Romain LhĂ©risson (1798â€“1859) and Jules Solime Milscent (1778â€“1842), who founded the journal L'Abeille haĂŻtienne in 1829.
In this period of intense literary turmoils, newspapers like Le RĂ©publicain and later L'Union opened their pages to the first romantics. L'Observateur, created in 1819, published romantic poetry. In 1836 the group of the CĂ©nacle was formed, with the romantic poets Ignace Nau (1808â€“1845) and Coriolan Ardouin (1812â€“1838). Later Oswald Durand (1840â€“1906) and Massillon Coicou (1867â€“1908) represented this movement.
Theatrical production was equally rich and important, parallel to the emergence of melodrama in France. All genres were represented: prose drama, tragedy, comedy, and works reflecting current and changing mores.
At the end of the 19th century, Haitian literature was imbued with the prestige of the French language and almost exclusively oriented towards Paris. Touching only the literate francophone minority, it ignored Haitians' daily lives, despite a strong patriotic dimension.
The twentieth century
The twentieth century opened with the creation of the magazine La Ronde by PĂ©tion GĂ©rome in 1895. The poets in this intimate and delicate school (Etzer Vilaire, Georges Sylvain) continued to use France as a point of reference. This vein continued during the first part of the 20th century with poets such as DantĂ¨s Bellegarde and Ida Faubert.
The American occupation, starting 1915, was a shock. The gĂ©nĂ©ration de la gifle (slap generation) created successive militant literary magazines: La Revue de la ligue de la jeunesse haĂŻtienne (1916), La Nouvelle Ronde (1925), and above all La Revue indigĂ¨ne (1927). The Indigeniste movement, through its founder Jean Price-Mars invited writers to start creating rather than imitating, that is to draw from the African roots of the Haitian people. The resistance was also expressed in the oral culture, stories, traditions and legends.
At the same time, social realism in literature was advanced by Jacques Roumain (Gouverneurs de la rosĂ©e, 1944) and RenĂ© Depestre. The novel depicted the darkness of peasant life in the country. Stephen Alexis, RenĂ© Depestre, and GĂ©rald Bloncourt founded the magazine La Ruche in 1945.
In 1946, AndrĂ© Breton was appointed by the Director of Cultural Affairs in Paris to establish relations with Haitian intellectuals.
In the midst of a student strike opposing the Lescot government, their speeches resonated with the insurgents, led in particular by RenĂ© Depestre. However, the surrealist influence on Haitian literature remained small, though real. It is, for example, openly claimed by Magloire Saint-Aude, collaborator of Griots.
The rĂ©alisme merveilleux of RenĂ© Depestre and Jacques Stephen Alexis in the 1950s would be much more fruitful. Contemporary Haitian literature is part of the Francophone literature as well as the Latin American culture.
The Duvalier regime saw the exodus of many Haitian intellectuals. The so-called writers of the diaspora engaged in a militant literature, treating Haiti in terms of memory, suffering, and guilt of being far from one's land. Books such as Jean MĂ©tellus's Louis Vortex (1992, rĂ©Ă©dition 2005) depict the daily life of Haitian exiles in their host countries. It can be difficult to define what constitutes a Haitian writer when many Haitians no longer live in Haiti and do not necessarily write about their home country.
Some contemporary authors
Living in Haiti:
Living in the US or Canada:
Living in France: