Le Macandal. Marie Augustin. Text edited
in French by Lindsey Monds.
ISBN: 978-0-98920558-5-4. $15.50
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Text edited by Lindsey Monds. French edition.
Incorporating memories passed from
generation to generation in a family of Saint-Domingue refugees
and racial stereotypes and literary conventions from her social
milieu and time, Marie Augustin constructs a dramatic work of historical
fiction about an imagined episode of the Haitian revolution. Many
of the white and black actors of the French and Haitian revolutions
appear in her novel, among others, Mirabeau, Marat, Ogé,
Chavannes, Boukman, Toussaint-Louverture, Dessalines, Rigaud. At
the date of 1870 on the title page, the author was only 19 and New
Orleans was in the middle of the Radical Reconstruction.
François Macandal is an African
Maroon slave said to have plotted to poison all whites in Saint-Domingue.
He was captured and burned at the stake in 1758, but became a legend
embodying hopes and fears of slave revolt in French slave colonies.
Despite the date in the book, 1793, the novel is set on the eve
of the slave uprising in the north province around Le Cap in August
1791 and contains a version of the Bois-Caïman ceremony, an
important symbolic if not real event. Marie Augustin creates two
characters through whom Macandal lives on: Wamba, his wife, and
Dominique, his son. The former, a Vodou priestess, harangues the
assembled blacks: “They have whipped you – you will
whip them; they have burned you, you will burn them; they have made
your blood flow, it’s your turn now, oh my children! Macandal
promised it to you, you will drink the blood of your torturers.”
This is an example of the terrifying image of vengeful insurgent
African slaves found in many colonial texts, against which Marie
Augustin expresses her preference for the alternative offered by
Toussaint-Louverture’s moderation, larger vision of the physical
and moral emancipation of his race, and solicitude for whites.