Kannjawou by Lyonel Trouillot
Kannjawou is a Haitian Creole word for a spectacular celebration. And that is precisely what this book is: a jubilee of all things Haitian–the joys and riches of its culture, and the sadness of its history.
Written in the format of a young man’s journal, the reader is taken to the heart of Burial Street–an actual place in Port-au-Prince which serves as an avenue between those who have everything and those who have nothing. As the unnamed narrator describes the day-to-day life of the neighborhood around him, we are introduced to an extraordinarily diverse group of people: a wise old woman, a young radical, a professor hopelessly in love, and a host of other individuals struggling to get through their lives each day. From among this crowd, the narrator focuses on his small group of friends, describing how they grapple with their poverty and hopeless situation through their hope in political reform and their dedication to those around them. But as they get older, this idealism begins to fade as the forces of history begin to crowd in.
It is precisely this masterful handling of universal themes such as love and friendship within this particular historical context–particularly the United Nations Mission in Haiti, which the author Lyonel Trouillot refers to as an “occupation” throughout the book–that makes Kannjawou such a unique and remarkable work. It is a lesson in human resilience, showing us how we can persevere even in the most difficult circumstances; as well as a warning of how we cannot escape the past.
A remarkable novel about Haiti, the power of words, and the futility of history.
Kannjawou by Lyonel Trouillot, translated by Gretchen Schmid, Schafner. Click here to buy the book with us.