Hadriana in All My Dreams

One of Haiti's most celebrated authors, René Depestre first published Hadriana in All My Dreams in French in 1988. Now, for the first time, this slim and beguiling novel about the mysterious death and possible zombification of a young woman on her wedding day has been translated into English. Hadriana, the white daughter of a wealthy French couple, unknowingly drinks poison the morning she's to be married to a black Haitian man. When she collapses at the altar, she's presumed dead. A carnival is held during her wake, much to the chagrin of her Catholic priest, and she is soon buried. But when locals examine her grave a few days later, they find it empty.

What follows has dreamlike logic: the narrators--Hadriana and Patrick, her eventual lover--combine fancy and truth to explain how and why the young woman disappeared. Woven throughout are Haitian myths--including that of a sex-starved butterfly--and testimonies from friends who exaggerate their memories of the death to explain the violent weather and economic downturn their village experienced. Translated beautifully by Kaiama L. Glover, Depestre's writing sings with an epic sensibility. Consider the description of Hadriana's wake: the "village square, which, in the midst of this general masquerade, took itself for the cosmic stage of the universe."

With its lyrical commentary on the origins of myth, this mesmeric and frequently erotic work transcends its focus on a young woman to address the complexities of race, class and religion. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

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