Thursday, October 31, 2013

Masters of the Dew

Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain is one of the books on my Haiti book list. It is one of my favorites so far, and I felt it called for it's own blog post. You can see the other books on my list here.

Roumain tells the story of rural Haitian farm life in the 1940s through the story of Manuel, a Haitian who returns home after working in Cuba for 15 years. He brings with him a perspective and skill set unfamiliar to the community to which he returns. I found the book very insightful into Haitian culture and the difficulties of rural agriculture, the presence of Christianity in Haiti, and the human element.

I highly recommend this read, and I want to share a few passages I found particularly strong and challenging. The first calls out the approach we take on the challenges we face. One Haitian proverb says, "deye mon, gen mon," which means, "beyond mountains, there are mountains." The second passage acknowledges our significance as individual fleeting lives. And the third passage briefly and poignantly describes the deterioration of our land.

"Mama, how are you going to keep alive?"
"By the grace of God," Délira murmered. She added sadly, "But there isn't any mercy for the poor."
"Resignation won't get us anywhere." Manuel shook his head impatiently. "Resignation is treacherous. It's the same as discouragement. It breaks your arms. You keep on expecting miracles and providence, with your rosary in your hand, without doing a thing. You pray for rain, you pray for a harvest, you recite the prayers of the saints and the laos. But providence--take my word for it--is a man's determination not to accept misfortune, to overcome the earth's bad will every day, to bend the whims of the water to your needs. Then the earth will call you, 'Dear Master.' The water will call you, 'Dear Master.' And there's no providence but hard work, no miracles but the fruit of your hands." pg 40-41

"You're smart, oui, Manuel."
"No, it's just that I have faith."
"Faith in what?"
"Faith in life, Anna. Faith that men can't die."
She reflected a second. "What do you mean? They're just like that water--your words. I have to dig down deep to find their meaning."
"Naturally the day comes when each man must enter the earth. But life itself is a thread that doesn't break, that can't be lost. Do you know why? Because every man ties a knot in it during his lifetime with the work that he does--that's what keeps life going through the centuries--man's work on the earth." pg 104

In the flaming afternoon the mountain stood erect, its sides bled white by rock gullies. The breadfruit trees, sick from the drought, served as a perch for crows. When their vehement cawing slackened for a second, you could hear the breathless cry of guinea hens in the thorn acacias. A hot decomposed odor, that the wind beat down on the village along with swarms of mosquitoes, rose from Zombi Pool. pg. 132

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