Dignity Introduction by Christophe Wargny Translated with an Afterword by Carrol F Co

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Author, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Author, Carrol F. Coates, Translator University of Virginia Press $39.5 (210p) ISBN 978-0-8139-1674-3
This isn't really a narrative of Aristide's life following the September 1991 coup that ousted him from the Haitian presidency. It's a manifesto. With its choppy writing, hyperbole and rhetoric, Dignity is truly for the converted. Wargny's lengthy introduction with its awkward language doesn't do much to help (""But the poorly understood formula, or rather tactic, might bring an element of humor, reduce the state of alert, and have a chance of demobilizing it.""). Those who aren't familiar with Haiti's history since 1915 aren't likely to be enlightened. There is some detail about Aristide's early years in the Roman Catholic clergy. And though he left the priesthood soon after this book was originally published in Paris in 1994 (which isn't all that surprising, given that the Vatican was the sole entity to recognize the junta that ousted him), there's still plenty of theology, proverbs and preaching here. In between are prescriptions for his poverty-stricken country. One of the first is for more equitable distribution of wealth in a country where one percent of the population holds 40% of the resources. He also calls for literacy, schooling, guaranteed access to health care (though without much solid detail on how to implement them) and the separation and professionalization of the army and the police. This last reform has been happening since Aristide returned to Haiti, and that holds out hope that the very real horrors portrayed in this book will dissipate and a less repressive society will take root in its place. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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