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Frankétienne. Translated by Asselin Charles. Afterword by Jean Jonassaint

BUY Cloth · 244 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813941387 · $59.50 · Oct 2018
BUY Ebook · 244 pp. · ISBN 9780813941400 · $59.50 · Oct 2018
BUY Paper · 244 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813941394 · $24.50 · Oct 2018

Best Translated Book Award - Longlisted, Best Translated Book Award (2019); Lois Roth Award for a Translation of a Literary Work - Honorable Mention, Modern Language Association (2019)

Dézafi is no ordinary zombie novel. In the hands of the great Haitian author known simply as Frankétienne, zombification takes on a symbolic dimension that stands as a potent commentary on a country haunted by a history of slavery. Now this dynamic new translation brings this touchstone in Haitian literature to English-language readers for the first time.

Written in a provocative experimental style, with a myriad of voices and combining myth, poetry, allegory, magical realism, and social realism, Dézafi tells the tale of a plantation that is run and worked by zombies for the financial benefit of the living owner. The owner's daughter falls in love with a zombie and facilitates his transformation back into fully human form, leading to a rebellion that challenges the oppressive imbalance that had robbed the workers of their spirit. With the walking dead and bloody cockfights (the "dézafi" of the title) as cultural metaphors for Haitian existence, Frankétienne’s novel is ultimately a powerful allegory of political and social liberation.


"His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble. It’s a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can’t imagine Haitian literature ever existing without."

Edwidge Danticat

"He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever."

Jean Jonassaint, Syracuse University

"The book is a literary and linguistic treasure that allows anyone interested in that period to delve into the complexity of Haitian history, culture, language, religion as well as issues of class, gender, identity, and power."

Cécile Accilien, Director of the Institute of Haitian Studies, University of Kansas

In Dézafi, translated by Asselin Charles and published by the University of Virginia Press, Frankétienne invites readers into the heart of rural Haitian communities, to join in their adversity, to stumble through a story that at times feels intentionally vague and intensely intimate, to fall down along with the characters and to pick themselves back up again as the narrative progresses.....Even though Frankétienne collapses certain novelistic elements in on themselves, there are storylines, threads, and traces of characters that by the end of the story accumulate into a powerful commentary on the aftershocks of US imperialism in Haiti or the austere squalor of a country nearly two decades into a dictatorship.

Reading in Translation

The New York Times once called Frankétienne 'the father of Haitian letters,' and even though he was absolutely preceded by women and men of powerful literary stature, the English translation of Dézafi demonstrates his devotion to the poetics of the Haitian quotidian in the language of the Haitian people.

Reading in Translation

The linguistic and stylistic impermeability of Dézafi is as integral to the text as is the plot. Charles manages to attend to both in his translation, using footnotes to make proverbial phrases legible to a non-Haitian readership, without compromising the text’s deliberate opacity.

Journal of Haitian Studies

About the Author(s): 

Frankétienne, called "the father of Haitian letters" by the New York Times, is the author of numerous novels, plays, and works of poetry. A past Nobel candidate, he is the recipient of France’s Order of Arts and Letters and has been named a UNESCO Artist for Peace.

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