Many books have been written about the country of Haiti and her tumultuous past. She is often painted as the dark and mysterious stepchild of the Caribbean Islands that historically has been her own worst enemy. Western and European historians, scholars, and politicians have and continue to imply that Haiti is nothing more than a savage wasteland of inferior people that were doomed the day their enslaved African ancestors committed the ultimate sin of fighting back and winning their freedom from the mighty French over 200 years ago. After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, these same slanted sentiments where further reinforced in the media, as Haiti was put on display during a time of devastation and destruction for the world to see. Despite this historically distorted and limited representation of Ayiti, the citizens of Haiti have always created and cultivated more critical counter-narratives than what is portrayed in media and literature. These alternative stories have been passed down from generation to generation and have taken many forms such as written words, skits/plays and oral histories. Some of the stories are non-fiction and autobiographical but the least explored and valued form of storytelling by Western scholars are that of Haitian fiction.
The ability to tell a story in a way that captures the multiple layers and complexities of its characters takes skill, courage and imagination. More specifically, fictitious narratives can provide a world of endless possibilities for creativity and an avenue for epistemological exploration. Kaiama L. Glover’s Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon investigates spiralism as a legitimate and revolutionary writing style to demystify traditional westernized literary norms as the standard while moving beyond recentralized postcolonial sensitivities.
The author stresses that spiralism, though scarcely recognized or acknowledged as a viable method of storytelling, is not a movement but a phenomenon. She does this by exploring the works of three Haitian spiralist authors: Frankétienne, Jean Claude Fignolé, and René Philoctète. In the spiralist tradition, Frankétienne is considered one of the foremost scholars in this style of writing. Glover points out that Frankétienne and Fignolé describe the spiral as an ever-changing, endless, complex double helix that is “operational on multiple levels, incarnating a precise artistic attitude while evoking essential phenomena at work in every aspect of [End Page 314] the natural world” (viii). In other words, the spiralist tradition represents the complexity of oral Haitian fictitious narratives that are not linear and static but always changing based on who is telling the story and for what purpose. These three authors are very strategic in not clearly defining spiralism. By doing so, spiralism cannot be placed inside a proverbial “box.” Frankétienne further suggests there is a unique relationship between the reader and the writer and in order for spiralism to be effective, he argues, both must practice the fine art of creativity.
Glover attempts to bring spiralism to the forefront in an effort to expose the Westernized centering of postcolonialism as the recognized voice of the colonized within traditional spaces such as the ivory towers. Within the context of marginalized discourses, postcolonialism is a tradition that has become a centered/standard way of thinking, and in being so, it has marginalized writing styles such as the spiralistic impression. Overall, the purpose of this book is to examine the individual contributions of these authors to spiralism and the commonalities they share.
In the introduction, the author investigates the marginalization of spiralism within the hegemonic space of the ivory towers and the reluctance of mainstream Western scholars to acknowledge spiralism as a permissible and valuable form of literary expression. She goes on to also express the oppression of spiralism specifically within the context of French speaking literature and the postcolonial discourses. The author stresses that the nation of Haiti and its spiral contribution should be included within Caribbean literary conversations. Furthermore, Glover posits that Haiti’s history, culture, and contributions should be embraced and celebrated by its citizens and the rest of the world. She...