Edwige Danticat

Create dangerously : the immigrant artist at work

Princeton university press

Princeton (New Jersey), 2010

bibliothèque insulaire

parutions 2010
Create dangerously : the immigrant artist at work / Edwige Danticat. - Princeton (NJ) : Princeton university press, 2010. - 189 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN 978-0-691-14018-6
In Haiti the same expression, lòt bò dlo, the other side of the water, can be used to denote the eternal afterlife as an émigré's eventual destination. It is sometimes impossible even for those of us who are on the same side of lòt bò dlo to find one another.

p. 94

Entre Haïti où elle est née et les Etats-Unis où elle vit depuis l'âge de douze ans, Edwige Danticat fait entendre les voix étouffées de celles et ceux qui ont accompagné son parcours. Voix du père évoquant sur son lit de mort les livres et représentations théâtrales qui ont soutenu l'ardeur d'un peuple harassé par une dictature sanglante ; voix de la tante Ilyana qui n'a connu d'autre horizon que Beauséjour dans la province de Léogâne, si loin de Port-au-Prince ; voix du cousin Marius, mort à Miami du sida — move maladi —, loin des siens et sans soins faute de papiers en règle.

Aux voix proches se joignent celles d'écrivains et artistes d'aujourd'hui ou d'hier : Jean Dominique journaliste assassiné en avril 2000 et sa fille la romancière Jan J. Dominique ; Marie Chauvet et Jacques Roumain — découvert sur les rayons de la Brooklyn Public Library ; Basquiat et Hector Hyppolite entre qui se noue un dialogue imaginaire ; Albert Camus qui a inspiré le titre du recueil : créer aujourd'hui, c'est créer dangereusement lit-on dans son discours de réception du Prix Nobel (1957) ; et Sophocle qui, adapté en créole par Franck Fouché et Félix Morisseau Leroy, a accompagné toutes les résistances.

Partagée entre terre natale et terre d'exil, nulle part chez elle, chez elle partout, Edwige Danticat assume pleinement l'exigence exprimée par les voix qu'elle accueille et relaie : porter témoignage, fût-ce au plus haut risque ; parler au nom des douleurs muettes. Son ami Junot Díaz ne dit pas autre chose : « a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway » (p. 149).
DESCRIPTION : In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus' lecture, « Create Dangerously », and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. Danticat eulogizes an aunt who guarded her family's homestead in the Haitian countryside, a cousin who died of AIDS while living in Miami as an undocumented alien, and a renowned Haitian radio journalist whose political assassination shocked the world. Danticat writes about the Haitian novelists she first read as a girl at the Brooklyn Public Library, a woman mutilated in a machete attack who became a public witness against torture, and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and other artists of Haitian descent. Danticat also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe.
EXCERPT    When it was a crime to pick up a bloodied body on the street, Haitian writers introduced Haitian readers to Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Antigone, which had been rewritten in Creole and placed in Haitian settings by the playwright Franck Fouché and the poet Félix Morisseau Leroy. This is where these writers placed their bets, striking a dangerous balance between silence and art.

   How do writers and readers find each other under such dangerous circumstances ? Reading, like writing, under these conditions is disobedience to a directive in which the reader, our Eve, already knows the possible consequences of eating that apple but takes a bold bite anyway.

   How does that reader find the courage to take this bite, open that book ? After an arrest, an execution ? Of course he or she may find it in the power of the hushed chorus of other readers, but she can also find it in the writer's courage in having stepped forward, in having written, or rewritten, in the first place.

   Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I've always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them. Coming from where I come from, with the history I have — having spent the first twelve years of my life under both dictatorships of Papa Doc and his son, Jean-Claude — this is what I've always seen as the unifying principle among all writers. This is what, among other things, might join Albert Camus and Sophocles to Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Osip Mandelstam, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Ralph Waldo Ellison. Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, a future that we may have yet to dream of, someone may risk his or her life to read us. Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, we may also save someone's life, because they have given us a passport, making us honorary citizens of their culture.


   There are many possible interpretations of what it means to create dangerously, and Albert Camus, like the poet Osip Mandelstam, suggests that it is creating as a revolt against silence, creating when both the creation and the reception, the writinng and the reading, are dangerous undertakings, disobedience to a directive.

pp. 9-11
  • « Edwige Danticat, a reader's guide » ed. by Martin Munro with a foreword by Dany Laferrière, Charlottesville : University of Virginia press, 2010
Sur le site « île en île » : dossier Edwige Danticat

mise-à-jour : 5 juillet 2012