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Lyonel Trouillot. Street of Lost Footsteps.

Trans. and intro. Linda Coverdale. Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2003. 115 pp. $45.00; paper: $16.95.

Trouillot's book has three narrators. These include a militant taxi-driver and a poetic retired brothel-keeper. But the middle one, in age and temperament, is crucial. He is an intellectual postal worker, in love with a woman named Laurence, who is as conscious of the obstacles presented by "middle-brow culture" as of the "zone of utter oblivion" in the violence that surrounds them. In this book's night-map of Haiti he represents judgment that links the old woman's memory and the driver's geography. Trouillot is an aggressive writer. He seizes the moment, and he is not afraid to render carnage and domesticity side by side. The colloquial monologues are scalding. They light up the reader like a torch. Corruption and despair do not faze our trio. The old madam achieves a wistful catharsis. The postal worker and Laurence make everyday living exquisite. And the taxi driver turns the Street of Lost Footsteps from a nightmare zone into a destination. One would call Trouillot a Kreyol Celine or Montherlant, except that he is far more humane. This year sees the bicentennial of Haitian independence. As Coverdale says, "Ever since that glorious independence in 1804, Haiti's history has been dominated by disorder and political oppression." The sadistic specter of "the great dictator Deceased-Forever Immortal"--the senior Duvalier, but also the seemingly inescapable brutality of power as a function in Haitian society--is hard to evade. Andree Polynice, a young woman, a child of promise, falls down. Perhaps like "pretty girls a people sometimes picks the wrong road"? The U.S. was the first country in the Americas to become independent, Haiti the second. Despite sharply different social trajectories, the same dreams remain alive in both.
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Author:Birns, Nicholas
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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