Antoine des Gommiers
by Lyonel Trouillot
Actes Sud, 208 p., € 18
“ Si you persist in the error, a misfortune will happen to you that even Antoine des Gommiers did not see coming. “ The future could so little escape this diviner that his gift had become proverbial. From all over Haiti and elsewhere, rich and poor flocked to his modest house, near Jérémie, the capital of Grande-Anse. A few decades after his death, Franky and Ti Tony, two kids from a poor and overcrowded district of Port-au-Prince, grow up with a harassed mother who tells them about his prestigious kinship: Antoine des Gommiers was his grand-uncle.
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The two boys couldn’t be more different. Darling son of their mother, Franky, frail asthmatic, placed his stubbornness in school and know it. Master Cantave, the teacher, watches over this child who shares his passion for figures of speech. To Ti Tony is attached a reputation of brawler which is due to his friendship for Danilo and Pépé le Cancre. It is enough to deprive him of the love of his mother who ventures out of her frustrations by slapping her with all her arms. “ I loved you until the slaps, says Ti Tony. Fortunately, I was not docile like Franky, otherwise you would have died without ever having expressed your right to anger. “
Make the poor look beautiful
Novel after novel, Lyonel Trouillot works in a tasty language to give voice to the little people of Haiti, poor among the poor to whom he gives their splendor. Here, it is Ti Tony who recounts over several decades his unwavering bond to Franky. In the family story, he encapsulates a thousand edifying stories about the inhabitants of the neighborhood. His acerbic voice alternates with the legend of Antoine des Gommiers, whose prophecies and advice lead to consequences of an often poignant poetry.
This double story slowly takes the turn of a literary thriller. Delectable pages on the visit of Ti Tony and his intimidating gangster friends to the impassive president of the Historical Society mark the unexpected culmination of a fascinating reflection on the power of writing.