Hadriana in All My Dreams

Written by René Depestre | Translated by Kaiama L. Glover
Akashicbooks | May 2nd, 2017

Hadriana in All My Dreams, winner of the prestigious Prix Renaudot, takes place primarily during Carnival in 1938 in the Haitian village of Jacmel. A beautiful young French woman, Hadriana, is about to marry a Haitian boy from a prominent family. But on the morning of the wedding, Hadriana drinks a mysterious potion and collapses at the altar. Transformed into a zombie, her wedding becomes her funeral. She is buried by the town, revived by an evil sorcerer, then disappears into popular legend.

Set against a backdrop of magic and eroticism, and recounted with delirious humor, the novel raises universal questions about race and sexuality. The reader comes away enchanted by the marvelous reality of Haiti’s Vodou culture and convinced of Depestre’s lusty claim that all beings—even the undead ones—have a right to happiness and true love.

René Depestre, born in 1926, is one of the most important voices of Haitian literature. A peer of seminal figures like Aimé Césaire, Pablo Neruda, and André Breton, Depestre has engaged with the politics/aesthetics of negritude, social realism, and surrealism for more than half a century. Having lived through significant moments in Haitian and New World history—from the overthrow of Haitian dictator Élie Lescot in 1946, to the first Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris in 1956, to a struggle with Haiti’s François “Papa Doc” Duvalier in 1957, to a collaboration with Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and a fraught relationship with Fidel Castro in the 1960s and ’70s—Depestre is uniquely positioned to reflect on the extent to which the Americas and Europe are implicated in Haiti’s past and present.

Publisher website


REVIEWS

“You do not need to believe in zombies or Vodou to be carried away by this story—a metaphor for all forms of dispossession . . . René Depestre has gone beyond nostalgia to write a sumptuous love story.”
Le Monde

“The sights and sounds of Haiti’s vibrant carnival season invigorate this tale of vodou and Haitian culture . . . The truth of Hadriana’s fate proves more poignant than horrifying, but in Depestre’s hands, this incident is a touchstone of a culture in which distinctions between the empirical and spiritual are obscured, and whose traditional celebrations and beliefs introduce an element of the mythic into the everyday. Eroticism and humor course through his narrative. Depestre’s intimacy with his subject matter and his familiarity with the people he portrays—the story is set in his hometown, at the time when he was 12 years old—give readers an insider’s look at Jacmelian culture.”
Publishers Weekly

“One-of-a-kind . . . [A] ribald, free-wheeling magical-realist novel, first published in 1988 and newly, engagingly translated by Glover . . . An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry, folk art, and véritable l’amour.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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