- Jacques Roumain, ‘Gouverneurs de la rosée’: étude critique par Christiane Chaulet-Achour
This study on one of the seminal texts of twentieth-century Haitian literature forms part of a more recent addition to Champion’s critical series on canonical French texts, focusing on works linked to colonization, decolonization, and migration. The author of this book is one of two editors who initiated the series Entre les lignes, the first titles of which appeared in 2013. The intended audience for these critical studies is wide, ranging from high-school and university students to the general public, and this is reflected in the structure and depth of the book. As a non-specialist, critical study, the present book on Jacques Roumain’s masterpiece, Gouverneurs de la rosée (1944), follows an appropriate format of, firstly, placing the author in his historical context; secondly, providing an overview of the novel, including its plot, title, and principal themes; and, thirdly examining the main characters and the language of the novel. The style is simple and clear, with frequent page references to the primary text, which would be useful for those writing high-school or undergraduate essays. The book also draws heavily from Léon-François Hoffman’s critical edition of Roumain’s Œuvres complètes (Paris: Allca XX, 2003), which includes contributions from important figures in the field. For those searching for greater depth in the book’s analysis, the section on language, specifically the intricacies of writing between [End Page 619] French and Creole, is the most interesting. While these debates about the symbolic value of the two languages are nothing new, the study provides a good introduction to some of the key linguistic issues for francophone Caribbean writers, which remain relevant today. This section thus provides a useful point of departure for those wishing to delve further into the complexities of the Caribbean novel. The study concludes with selected ‘critical points of view’ from well-known scholars of Haiti such as Maximilien Laroche and J. Michael Dash, and fellow Haitian writers such as Jacques Stephen Alexis, Émile Ollivier, and René Depestre. The final quotation is left to Dany Laferrière from his book L’Art presque perdu de ne rien faire (Montréal: Boréal, 2014), who underlines the enduring importance of Roumain’s legacy for the Haitian peasant novel and more generally in world literature. Again in this section, the inclusion of a smattering of important critics and writers in the field would give the interested reader a good place to start future research. While it cannot be claimed that this book has the depth necessary for a specialist reader, it nonetheless achieves its aim of reaching a wide and general audience, who will be introduced to one of the great works of Caribbean literature.