When the Pipirite Sings
by Jean Métellus
Pub Date 15 Apr 2019
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Translated by formidable comparative literature scholar Haun Saussy, When the Pipirite Sings expresses an acute historical consciousness and engages recurrent Haitian themes—the wrenching impact of colonialism and underdevelopment, the purposes of education, and the merging of spiritual and temporal power. And, as always with Métellus’s poetry, the range of voices and points of view evokes other genres, including fiction and cinema. This eminently readable book has formal and thematic ties to Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, central to the canon of French-language postcolonial writings.
In addition to many books of poetry, Métellus published novels, chiefly about the remembered Haiti of his youth, and plays about the conquest of the Caribbean. His nonfiction included reflections on Haitian history and politics, on the iconography of slave emancipation, and studies of aphasia and dyslexia.
“Jean Métellus’s strikingly original voice is finally available in a splendid translation that captures the epic sweep and tragic thrust of his hallucinatory style. Haun Saussy renders with subtle poetic nuances the poet’s engagement with Haiti’s mythic gods, its landscapes and natural disasters, and the heartbreaking fate of its children. It will now be possible to teach Métellus in world literature courses, alongside Homer, Aimé Césaire, René Depestre, or Derek Wolcott, and appreciate anew his remarkable talent and singular vision.” —Françoise Lionnet, author of Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity
“Saussy’s translation remarkably preserves Métellus’s poetic imagination and the Haitian matrix in which his entire literary work is inscribed. It skillfully transfers into English the coalescence of the poet’s native land with the universal, the deliberate language turbulence, the ‘thought-rhythm-images’ association, the words’ effervescence, and the sparkling images of Metellus’s poetic language.” —Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, Professor Emerita of French and Comparative Literature, Stanford University
"That Haun Saussy has translated Métellus's complex and discursive Haitian Francophone original into a solid English is a feat worthy of note. That this first poetic work of the prolific Jean Métellus will be known to scholars and students of Haitian literature through a new translation is equally notable and should be celebrated." —Danielle Legros Georges, Poet Laureate, City of Boston
"Haiti’s contributions to literature have thus far been scanted in the English-speaking world. Jean Métellus, physician-poet, has remained obscure to those who might read Rimbaud or Valéry. This is all about to change through this book, the expression of both Métellus’s and Saussy’s love for Haiti. When the Pipirite Sings should remain a standard-setting effort in the broader project of translating an increasingly disparate world." —Paul Farmer