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  • Frankétienne and Rewriting: A Work in Progress
  • Kaiama L. Glover
Frankétienne and Rewriting: A Work in Progress. By Rachel Douglas. (After the Empire: The Francophone World and Postcolonial France). Lanham, MD and Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2009. x + 196 pp.

In Frankétienne and Rewriting Rachel Douglas presents an elegant overview of Haitian Spiralist writer Frankétienne's literary praxis, connecting the author's 'near-obsessive' (p. 1) revising to broader postcolonial Caribbean literary phenomena. Douglas's study offers a comparative analysis of five major works, emphasizing the ethical and the aesthetic perspectives implicit in Frankétienne's 'predilection for the process of writing over what is written; for production over finished product; and for the dynamic over [End Page 425] the stable' (p. 160). Douglas rightly insists on the importance of fully contextualizing the works in question, considering them always with respect to the changing historical, socio-economic, and cultural realities of twentieth-century Haiti. Yet, while noting the profound political imperative visible in Frankétienne's writings and rewritings, she is careful always to privilege the works' 'literariness' (p. 9). As such, throughout the book she places the theories of narratology put forward by such Franco-European theorists as Julia Kristeva, Michael Riffaterre, and, especially, Gérard Genette in dialogue with the postcolonial critical perspectives articulated by Edward Said, Homi K. Bhabha, and Mireille Rosello, among others. Chapter 1 looks at the phenomenon of zombification in Dézafi (1975), Les Affres d'un défi (1979), and Dezafi (2002), the three iterations of Frankétienne's groundbreaking political allegory. Adopting a critical stance anchored in a Vodou epistemology of twinship, Douglas investigates the poetics of transcreation and autotranslation at work in the narratives. Considering the 'noticeable swelling' (p. 37) that occurs from one text to the next, she reveals the semantic and political implications of adding so much new language to each successive version. Douglas's second chapter examines the two editions of Frankétienne's first book-length fiction works, Mûr à crever (1968, 1995) and Ultravocal (1972, 1995). These striking examples of Frankétienne's 'tendency of renewing the contextual relevance of his works' (p. 58) shed real light on Haitian politics before and after Duvalier, Douglas argues. Attentive also to the distinctly creative evolution revealed by comparing the earlier and later editions of the texts, Douglas addresses Frankétienne's introduction of 'quantum writing' into his Spiralist aesthetic. Chapters 3 and 4 investigate the deployment of cannibalism — as metaphor and as formal practice — in L'Oiseau schizophone (1993) and Les Métamorphoses de l'oiseau schizophone (1996-97). Douglas establishes Frankétienne as participant in a discourse of cultural resistance in the Caribbean, situating the Spiralist author alongside such non-Haitian writer-intellectuals as Kamau Brathwaite, Aimé Césaire, C. L. R. James, Édouard Glissant, and Patrick Chamoiseau while noting emphatically the singular nature of Frankétienne's contributions. In each of these chapters Douglas is faced with the challenge of establishing critical order while respecting the deliberate chaos of Frankétienne's aesthetic. Her manner of engaging with the spiralic nature of both the individual works and the whole of Frankétienne's corpus is commendable. In her Conclusion, Douglas very generously suggests myriad directions for future study that might build on her work, moving beyond analysis of Frankétienne's corpus to explorations of the specific practices of other Caribbean rewriters.

Kaiama L. Glover
Barnard College, Columbia University


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