Jacques Stephen Alexis on Jacques Roumain

“Les peuples sont des arbres qui fleurissent malgre la mauvaise saison; a la belle saison, notre  arbre continue a vivre. Un peuple qui vient de produire un Jacques Roumain ne peut pas mourir.”

* I can’t get my French accents to work. I apologize for this inconvenience.

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Henock Trouillot on Jacques Roumain

On the intellectual journey (s) of Jacques Roumain, Henock Trouillot states that

“Jacques Roumain etait au point de vue intellectuel, un homme en perpetuelle evolution.”— Henock Trouillot, Dimension et Limites de Jacques Roumain (p. 166)

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Roumain on Prayer

The narrator of Master of the Dew (MOD) invites us to reflect critically on the usefulness of prayer when life hurts and despair becomes part of the human existence. 

The narrator: “She [Delira] wept, she prayed. But what good are prayers and supplications when that last hour has come of which the Book speaks? When the moon goes out and the stars go out and the wax of the clouds hides the sun, and the strong Negro says, ‘I’m tired,’ and the Negresse stops pounding the corn because she’s tired, and there’s a bird laughing in the weeds like a rusty rattle, and those who sing are sitting in a circle without a word, and those who weep are running down the main street of the town and cryring ‘Help! Help! Today we’re burying our beloved, and he’s going off toward the grave, he’s going off toward the dust!” —Jacques Roumain, Masters of the Dew, pp. 156-7

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Roumain’s Speech at YMCA: November 15, 1939

On November 15, 1939, Jacques Roumain was the invited Guest-Speaker to the YMCA of Harlem. The event took place at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of New York Public Library. In his speech, he articulated his ideas about what a writer should be and explained the role of writers in society.

“The moral result of this interdependence is that writers who like to believe ourselves to be the reflecting consciousness of the universe, have once and for all lost the right–if ever it was ours–to the artifice of solitude and to the mysticism of introspection. This more or less subtle phraseology is but a screen of smoke, hiding imperfectly a panic to desert. It is a renunciation of the primordial mission of a man thought: to be a man of action.
I believe that a rather good definition of ‘writer’ should be that essentially he is not free, that thoughts are so deeply determined by history, that they have no real value if they do not reflect and express the dialectic pulsation of life.”

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Roumain and l’Afrique

In august 31, 1929, Roumain published a short article on Africa, simply entitled “L’Afrique.” I hope to share a small portion of his thought on Africa with you:
” Pour ma part, je ne renierai pas la chaude, la mysterieuse, la triste Afrique. Et comment le pourrais-je, puisuqe je porte sur mon front la trace de son noir baiser et en mon ame l’empreintre indelebile de son ame!”

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Jacques Roumain on Poetry

Jacques Roumain on Poetry:
“La poesie comme un instrument revolutionnaire, rien de plus: une arme, a l’egal d’un fusil, d’un tract ou d’un pamphlet. Je ne puis voir au poete, en ce moment, d’autre mission.” –New York, jeudi 7 novembre 1940

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Manuel and Annaise: A short conversation on Vodou

Here’s a conversation between Manuel–the protagonist of the novel– and Annaise in Masters of the Dew (MOD).

Manuel: “‘You see the color of the plain,’ he began ‘It looks like straw at the mouth of a flaming furnace. The harvest has perished. There’s no more hope. How are you going to live? It would be a miracle of you did live—but then it would only be to die a slow death. And what have you done to prevent it? One thing only. Cried about your misfortune to the loas, offered ceremonies so that they’d make the rain fall. But all that’s just so much sill monkeyshines. That doesn’t count! It’s useless, and it’s wasting time” (87).

Annaise: “’Then what does count, Manuel? And aren’t you afraid of offending our old gods of Guinea?”

Manuel: “No, I respect the customs of the old folks, but the blood of a rooster or a young goat can’t make the seasons change, or alter the course of the clouds and fill them with water like bladders” (87).

Manuel continues to tell Annaise why he participated in the recent Vodou ceremony and danced to the sacred Yanavalou dance. He denies any attachment with the religion

Manuel: “The other night, at the Legba ceremonies, I danced and sang to my heart’s content. I’m Negro, no? And I enjoyed myself like a real Negro. When the drums beat, I feel it in the pit of my stomach. I feel an itch in my loins and an electric current in my legs, and I’ve got to join the dance. But that’s all there is to it for me” (87-88).

Below I report what happened to Manuel at the Vodou ceremony:

Narrator: “Manuel let himself go in the upsurge of the dance, but a strange sadness crept into his soul. He caught his mother’s eye and thought he saw tears shining there” (71).

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