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June 8, 2011 / Lee Skallerup Bessette

Ezili: Demanding the Word be Reinvented

When I was writing my essay (which I finally finished) on Nalo Hopkinson‘s The Salt Roads, I had to do some research on the Haitian Voodoo goddess Ezili. I picked up my trust book, Haiti, History, and the Gods by Joan Dayan (best impulse buy I ever made) and noticed that I had already underlined a whole lot of relevant information and interpretations of this uniquely Haitian goddess. That’s weird, I thought. Why did I do this previously?

And then I remembered, Ezili is the goddess that Dany uses in Je suis un écrivain Japonais. I wrote an essay on the book which included a section analyzing the significance of using Ezili in the narrative. Another connection between these two authors that I am writing/thinking about. And the questions remain similar about the two authors’ works as well: who speaks for those in the margins? Who, ultimately, has control over a narrative, artistic or otherwise? Laferrière’s concern is specifically with the identity of the artist, while Hopkinson is concerned with history (something that Laferrière concerns himself with in other novels).

Ezili demands that the word be reinvented. The word, in this case, is love. How does one “love” in a time of extreme repression and oppression (salvery)? How does one “love” or take possession of an artist?

These are important questions, particularly when it comes to understanding Laferrière’s body of work, particularly in Éroshima and Je suis un écrivain Japonais. This idea of loving and at one possessing someone is an intriguing one, and I’m still working through it. I do know that I will be heavily revising the aforementioned essay on Laferrière for the book. Isn’t that the point of all this?

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