Some people can’t help but compare Haiti Noir to its predecessor The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, but as the subtitle of the latter indicates, it was a collection of short literary works by writers from the United States.
Haiti Noir for its part, is a literary works collection of not only writers in the United States (Katia D. Ulysse, Ibi Aanu Zobi, Patrick Sylvain, Marie-Lily Cerat), but celebrated novelists and playwrights of Haiti like Rodney Saint Eloi, Yanick Lahens, Evelyne Trouillot, Marvin Victor, Kettly Mars, Louis-Phillipe Dalembert, Gary Victor, who live and write in various corners of the earth be it France, Haiti, Canada, Germany, and whose award-winning writing, in most cases, is finally being made available for English-speaking readers (translated by Nicole and David Ball). Not only is Haiti and the Haitian experience seen through their eyes, but it is seen through the eyes of non-Haitians like novelists Madison Smart Bell and Mark Kurlansky.
And Haiti Noir has practically picked up the Lost Years between the time The Butterfly’s Way was released, and modern times, to include life-changing events like Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, which is explored in three stories in the 18-story collection. Gary Victor sprinkles dark humor in his story “The Finger”, which is so macabre it makes the heart go pitter-patter with vigorous “Tell-Tale Heart”-like beats. One of the most arresting stories in the collection is Josaphat-Robert Large’s “Rosanna”, the ill-fated story of an orphan who is the victim of lower-class resentment of the elite. Its almost unexpected ending inspires shivers.
M.J. Fièvre’s “The Rainbow’s End” recounts an episode in the life of a precocious teenager during the embargo-imposed 1990s and the older, reckless man of ill-gotten gains that she falls in lust with, while in Nadine Pinède’s “Departure Lounge”, a young Haitian expat in Cap Haitian, who has auditory comprehension of Kreyol, as she calls it, but full-blown comprehension of her culture she lacks not, collaborates with a Martha Stewart-esque mogul and cringes at her employer bringing a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s book Tell My Horse, as her guide to Haiti.
Haiti Noir is like an all you can eat spot, that makes you yearn to eat more from Haiti’s literary buffet.