Saturday, July 29, 2017

Three of the best books on Haiti

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka tagged three top books on Haiti. One title on the list:
The Comedians by Graham Greene

Greene's classic tragicomedy is set in Haiti under Duvalier and his sinister secret police, the Tontons Macoute.

Three men meet on a boat to Port-au-Prince: the world-weary Brown, the narrator who owns a hotel in the capital; the idealistic but naive Smith, a former US presidential candidate; and Jones, a charming conman with a bogus résumé. These flawed human beings are the comedians of the title, whose fates become intertwined amid Haiti's corruption and violence.

Brown's life becomes increasingly complicated and fraught with danger after the suicide of a government minister in his hotel's swimming pool, his rekindling of an affair with an ambassador's wife and his getting caught up in Jones's foolhardy escapades.

Though Papa Doc never appears in the novel, he casts a long shadow over events. And in a dig at US cold-war policy, we are reminded that the dictator is a "bulwark against communism", sustained by aid from Washington.

Greene vividly evokes the fear and loathing in Haiti, and his elegantly written black comedy-cum-political thriller allows a light of hope to flicker in the darkness.

After the novel's publication in 1966, a furious Papa Doc banned Greene and his book. The British author died in 1991.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Comedians is among Seth Satterlee's six famously banned books, Paul French's five best books on the misadventures of expatriates, and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

See also Ben Fountain's top ten books about Haiti and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

--Marshal Zeringue