Palimpseste by Valérie Rinaldo
In these times of political turmoil, with constant media reports, escape into beauty is a wondrous gift. And this book is truly "a thing of beauty," to quote John Keats: beauty in the words, their musical qualities, their placement on the page; [End Page 243] beauty in the images, their vibrant colors, their evocative shapes; beauty in the book itself as artifact. Both artists have Haitian roots; both reside in France. The poet, Valérie Rinaldo, teaches literature in the Tarn-et-Garonne, where she recently founded the Éditions Terre de Ciel to share her "passion de beaux livres" (www.editions-terredeciel.com). The painter, Ginette Adamson, now living in Strasbourg, is known to many WIF members, especially as the organizer for many years of the Continental, Latin-American and Francophone Women Writers conferences at Wichita State University.
As its title, "Palimpseste," suggests, the book joins a long tradition, but it seems to ask, "Do we need another account of the wrongs of slavery?" This one, however, covers less studied ground. It represents a voyage of self-discovery as, first and foremost, a woman. The moment of full understanding comes toward the end of the text: "Croyant partager avec les chantres de la Négritude / La violence de l'insurrection / Penses-tu qu'il est permis de tutoyer les grands Bâtisseurs / Ta quête est d'une autre nature / Boire enfin Ta Vérité à pleine bouche » (54) and leads to the realization of the function of the poet: « Réinventer le futur pour donner du sens au passé » (55). The voyage passes through the individual acts of love and pleasure, motherhood, and also, more broadly, looks at women's suffering during the time of slavery, with "les enfants de la honte," when a woman was forced to bear "l'enfant du maître" (49).
There is much here about Haiti, especially in a section titled "À la rencontre d'Haïti"—the physical beauty of the land ("Haïti la très belle" ), its suffering ("Port-au-Prince entrouvre ses plaies béantes" ), details of its history as "l'Insoumise" and "la Rebelle" (50), its myths (Erzulie and other aspects of the loas of vaudou), its dances, its colors, its sounds, and even lines from a song in creole. Rinaldi also emphasizes the multiple connections to Africa, such as the creation myth, Fon in origin, of Mawu and Lissa.
The ten paintings, although created independently of the text, correspond to cues where, sometimes, specific colors are named (corail, saffran, mauve, magenta, or, pourpre, grège, indigo, rousse, bleuté) or, at other times, only suggested, in for instance, the many details concerning the sea: "le mugissement suave de la vague océane / Vibre à fleur d'écume" (28). Adamson has chosen strong reds to accompany passages that speak of the physical pleasures of love. Blues dominate in the pages where the sea is described. African masks and vague human shapes appear in other images.
I recommend the volume, with its echoes of Césaire and Rimbaud, in particular, to those WIF members who teach poetry, Caribbean Studies, or Africa and its diaspora, but also—more broadly—to anyone who desires to flee today's often hideous world into "Toute la beauté du monde" (63), the sheer wonder of colors, forms, and words.