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Literature & Fiction

The Festival of the Greasy Pole (CARAF Books: Caribbean and African Literature translated from the French) - Rene Depestre,Carrol F. Coates

The Festival of the Greasy Pole (CARAF Books: Caribbean and African Literature translated from the French)

Author: Rene Depestre,Carrol F. Coates
Book title: The Festival of the Greasy Pole (CARAF Books: Caribbean and African Literature translated from the French)
ISBN: 0813912822
ISBN13: 978-0813912820
Publisher: University of Virginia Press (August 19, 1990)
Language: English
Category: History & Criticism
Rating: 4.1/5
Votes: 371
Pages: 194 pages
More formats: azw mbr lrf lrf

This novel is one of the most important statements about the Duvalier regime in Haiti, written by a Haitian who played a prominent role in the revolutionary movement that brought down the Lescot regime in January 1946. _The Festival of the Greasy Pole_ includes a scathing caricature of Papa Doc Duvalier and the bloodbath that he visited on his own country.
Reviews: (4)
I learned so much of Haiti's history through this book..it seems like not much has changed! A must read for all!
As a political exile for most of his life, Depestre must have harbored deep despair for the fate of his country, Haiti, forever wrapped in oppression, poverty, and ecological degradation. His feeling boiled over in this novel in which hopelessness oozes from every page. The Haitians are valiant and resourceful, but they are doomed, they are bound to be crushed. THE FESTIVAL OF THE GREASY POLE is not so much a novel as a political fable which explains, far better than an academic treatise or newspaper article, the crushing conditions that obtained during the dictatorship of the awful Duvalier, a.k.a. Papa Doc, who is called Zachary in the novel, and his government, called the National Office for the Electrification Of Souls, or NOFESO-Zacharian for short (?). The word "Haiti" does not appear in the novel, but Haitian culture, especially its connections to the African religion sometimes known as "Voodoo" or Vodun, and Haitian history are squarely in the center of the work. There is no explanation. Whether all of this would be comprehensible to a person unfamiliar with Haiti is unclear. It may be confusing to such readers, who, I think it is safe to assume, make up the majority of the readers in the world. Why did Depestre choose "National Office for the Electrification of Souls" as a title ? He no doubt had a reason, but it remains a mystery to me because I don't know Haiti that well.
Perhaps some broadening of scope would have made this a more universal novel. The government holds a festival in which men try to climb to the top of a greasy pole. Can our hero do it and so show the NOFESO-Zacharian dictatorship that its opponents can strike a blow (however ineffectual) against it ? That is the plot of the novel. What can a thinking individual do when totalitarian rulers have completely crushed a nation? This is the question Depestre asks. I am not just intellectualizing about what I may or may not understand as the point of the story. On page 105, the hero asserts "...In the paradise where we live, a pole smeared with s... can be President-for-Life and vice versa." Can the hero conquer this pole? What would be the result of such brave action ? The translation could have been a little smoother. But if you are interested in what a Haitian writer, obviously a thoughtful man, has to say about the situation in his country in an allegorical way, then read this book.
A note from Carrol F. Coates (the translator) about THE FESTIVAL OF THE GREASY POLE: in his review Bob Newman stated that there was "no explanation" of the acronym NOFES (National Office for the Electrification of Souls). If he had looked at my introduction, he would have found the explanation: a major project of Francois Duvalier was the production of energy (specifically, electric energy) in Haiti: Depestre even uses the slightly altered name of Peligre Dam, constructed under Duvalier--"Veligre" Dam in the novel. "Electricity" becomes the symbol of control and of the project of "energizing" the country by Dictator-President Zachary (the fictional caricature of Duvalier). Unlike the reviewer, it seems to me that the symbolism of electricity as a means and a symbol of control by the dictator is fairly transparent in the text of the novel.
Hilarious Kangaroo
Depestre fills your brain with what is like to be in a system where you have no choice other than stand for what you believe. The reader does not need to be latinamerican to feel the experience of repression. The fluent narrative involves you more and more and when you less expected...you have finished the book... i strongly recomend it.
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