Edited By Polly Galis, Antonia Wimbush and Maria Tomlinson
11 Exploring Encounters in Passages by Emile Ollivier: The Role of Testimonial Responsibility to Othered Bodies (Jennifer Boum Make)
JENNIFER BOUM MAKE
11Exploring Encounters in Passages by Emile Ollivier: The Role of Testimonial Responsibility to Othered Bodies
Introduction: Incorporating Testimonial Voices in Passages by Emile Ollivier
In his 1991 novel Passages [Passages], for which he received the Grand Prix du Livre de Montréal the same year, Emile Ollivier develops insight into the lives of Haitian exiles in the Americas with multiple narrators that speak in the first person.1 Such a narrative configuration allows a range of voices of exile to intersect in unexpected ways. Normand Malavy and his wife, Leyda, have left Haiti and settled in Montreal years before a group of Haitian exiles has no other choice but to leave a dismal Port-à-L’Écu, a coastal city in the northwest of Haiti, following the overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier, also known as Baby Doc, in 1986. When their boat, La Caminante, founders a few miles off the coast of Southeast Florida, the few survivors, including one of the narrators Brigitte Kadmon, are immediately met by police forces and taken to the Krome detention centre in Miami where Normand and Brigitte will eventually meet.
This particular event resonates with the flow of so-called ‘boat people’, or Haitian migrants who, according to official reports, began arriving in Southern Florida in 1972.2 That first boat from Haiti is ominously called the ‘Mayflower des damnés de la glèbe et du glaive’ [Mayflower of the damned from the feudal lands with their...
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