Dining with the Dictator

Dany Laferriere, Author, David Homel, Translator Coach House Press $11.95 (207p) ISBN 978-0-88910-480-8
Recalling his youth in Papa Doc's tumultuous Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from the ``sanctuary'' of his Miami bathtub, the narrator of this tale creates a story of a displaced heart striving for balance in an upside-down world. At 16, he camped out in a house full of foxy ``girls'' while hiding from Duvalier's dreaded secret police. ``I try to make myself scarce in the corner. The one who sees is not seen. My fondest dream: not to be seen,'' the young writer confesses, while around him whirls a parade of nudity and sexual repartee. ``Could we be in the dying days of...the battle of the sexes,'' he muses, refusing even the girls' most steamy advances. Instead he goes out with the crazy Gege, who keeps in his pocket a blood-spurting replica of castrated testicles. Across the street, the narrator's mother and world-wise aunts worry what happened to him in a city of ``zombies and sharks,'' where ``all the real men are in the cemetery.'' Indeed what happens to males in a country whose violence relegates the business of living to females, females who are also divided between old world and new, religion and sex, reading and bopping, ``women'' and ``girls''? For all its wisdom, lyricism and readability, the author of the acclaimed How to Make Love to a Negro looks only at the surface of this question. While Laferriere's clever poetry gives his book the illusion of poignance and depth, the too passive, too naive narrator tells a less moving, less significant story. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
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