Passages (Ekstatis Editions, $19.95), the novel by the late Émile Ollivier has the prose of the epic poems that most modern poets can’t perhaps fathom.
Leonard W. Sugden who translated Ollivier’s work from French to English, smartly kept the lyrical style of Ollivier’s work, which treats immigration, alienation, and explores the different locales where Haitian immigrants are concentrated—Montreal and Miami, and of course their very origin Haiti.
Normand Malavy (Mal a Vie? The pain of living…no doubt that last name is a wordplay on his very existence) an exile who once made Montreal his home, ventures out to Miami for a kidney transplant. Yes, that Miami, home to the Krome Detention Center, a rather hospitable little institution for Haitian immigrants. Normand notes how it looks like a group of “sinister warehouses”.
Amédée Hosange is Normand’s narrative twin. A native of Port-a-L’Écule, Hosange dreams of life abroad, and thus the paths of the two men cross, appropriately enough via a shipwreck. Amparo, Leyda, Felippe, and Brigitte all play a part in the respective journeys of these two men, whose lives may never have intertwined had it not been for the intricacies of emigration.
This book won the Grand Prix du Livre de Montréal in 1991, and it is no wonder why at all.