The crime of despair

It has an evocative name. However, Emmelie Prophète does not read into the future. Even if The chained Duck wrote, at the time of the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, that he had died as Cannibal 2.0, one of the characters in his latest book, The villages of God, appeared eight months earlier.

In any case, for the author Emmelie Prophète, met in Tunis on the occasion of the World Congress of French-speaking writers, reality goes far beyond fiction. Her latest book tells the story of Célia, a young woman who lives in the community of the City of Divine Power, in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, under the influence of gangs of young men armed and delivered to their worst. instincts. A place where leaders assassinate one after the other in a frantic race for ephemeral power.

The idea for this book came to Emmelie Prophète from a simple radio report, she says. While at the wheel of her car, she heard the testimony of a man who had murdered the leader of her gang, and who explained, “in a completely uninhibited way”, how and why he had killed him.

“The reasons were that the distribution of money, resulting from criminal activities, was not fair. That he gave more food to his dogs than to his men, that he slept with their girlfriends, and that they were fed up, ”she says. “I was extremely shocked by the report, by the cynicism and the coldness” of the one who recounted the assassination.

“Lost people”

Moreover, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, there is indeed a city called Village-de-Dieu, she says, even if the names of the other communities in her book have been invented. In these cities, visitors do not come out alive, she explains, citing the case of a photojournalist, Vladimir Legagneur, mysteriously disappeared in 2018, in the vicinity of Village-de-Dieu.

This reality, then, of cities where we live without water, and without electricity apart from illegal sockets, where young men are armed to the teeth, God knows by whom, while they live in tin houses, is very real in Haiti today.

“I don’t come from a neighborhood like that,” says Emmelie Prophète, who is also a copyright lawyer in Port-au-Prince. It’s just that I am very attentive to what is happening, to the development of my country. When I was little, it wasn’t like that. When I was growing up, there weren’t these working-class neighborhoods at the entrance to the capital. These are neighborhoods that emerged with the fall of the dictatorship, from 1986. […] The rise of gangs began perhaps 30 years ago. First there were petty criminals, but for the past ten or twelve years, they have been armed and they have the means. “

Emmelie Prophète however measures all the despair which directs the murderous madness of these petty criminals. “These are lost people. They were born in these cities, in these ghettos. They had no access to anything. It’s as if they don’t exist. Many of them do not even have identity documents. They were born there. They did not go to school. They did not have access to health care, ”she says. In this cul-de-sac where they seem to be born, they are ready to do anything to snatch a few months of glory, success or money out of time, and are not afraid of dying.

Change of mentality

This distress, Emmelie Prophète links it to that of those who dream of fleeing the country, to these refugees who are expelled from Texas or elsewhere. “These people,” she said, “Canada would not receive them. “

In this merciless jungle, Emmelie Prophète still managed to plant a little love, that of Célia, her heroine, for her grandmother or even for her uncle, who came back broken from an attempt toimmigration in the USA.

“There is solidarity, there is love,” she says. Something that makes it possible to survive the hours, the days, but nothing sufficient to overcome the power of the destructive forces present.

To get there, it would take a complete change of mentalities, she said, an implementation of the democratic state.

“It is time for us to change the mentality, the way of seeing power in this country. We must accept to be Republicans and fulfill our duties to the end. That is to say to go and vote, to choose the right person and, even if along the way one has the impression that he is not suitable, to wait until the end of his mandate. So we need to become Republican Democrats. “

Our journalist was the guest of the Estates General of French-language books around the world.

God’s villages

Emmelie Prophète, Inkwell memory, Montreal, 2020, 224 pages.

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