Marie Vieux-Chauvet

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Marie Vieux-Chauvet (born Marie Vieux; September 16, 1916 – June 19, 1973), was a novelist, poet and playwright who was born and educated in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Quotes

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Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy (1968)

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translated from the French by Val Vinokur and Rose-Myriam Réjouis (2009)

  • Quietly, like a shadow, I watch this drama unfold scene by scene. I am the lucid one here, the dangerous one, and nobody suspects. An old maid! No husband. Doesn't know love. Hasn't even lived, really. They're wrong. In any case, I'm savoring my revenge in silence. Silence is mine, vengeance is mine. (first lines of Love)
  • Freedom is an inmost power. That is why society limits it.
  • One thing remains true: hatred only breeds hatred.
  • What’s the use of religion if it oppresses instead of consoling? If it offers despair instead of relief? If it takes away instead of preserving?
  • Fear is a vice that takes root once it is cultivated.
  • It is with my hand and with my heart that I write, not with my eyes
  • At dawn, I was already flat against the wall, drinking up the least signs of life from the town like a starving man. Nothing stirred. All around, immutable nature seemed to mock our anguish. (Madness)

Anger

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  • Once more, the silence seemed to them so profound, so ominous, that they felt as though they could inhale it together with the air. (chapter 2)
  • That afternoon, the grandfather had the maid bring the invalid to church. Once he found a seat, he took him on his knees and sent Mélie back to wait on the porch. From his pulpit, the Haitian priest delivered a sermon that displeased him because he spoke of obedience and acceptance not of the laws of heaven but of what passed for law in the kingdom of this world.
    "We must learn to submit," the priest was saying. "We must learn to resign ourselves, for nothing happens on earth without God's will."
    A few people turned to stare at the grandfather. And for a moment he had the unpleasant feeling that the sermon was directed at him. "Should I, too," he felt like shouting, "Should I, too, resign myself to having my father's grave profaned and his bones dug up?" He knew the priest would reply: "Yes, if such be God's will." And therefore he had gone astray, for rebellion and vengeance swelled within him. Jesus chased the thieves from the Temple with a whip, and my father imitated him. Was be wrong? he wondered. No, and even when he stuck a knife in the back of that incorrigible thief who had managed to bribe the judges and get the law on his side, he was right that time too. After all, since when did a man, a real man, allow what is his to be taken away against his will? And the grandfather wanted to spit in the faces of all these curs, beginning with his own son. He left the church irate, the invalid in his arms. If the Church was on the side of the thieves, he might as well pray at home from now on. And God would in the end understand that the Church had sunk into corruption. (chapter 6)
  • The sentences coming out of him displaced those scrolling under his eyes in the book. (chapter 8)
  • Alone again, she had invented touchingly naïve myths to console herself: a leaf whirling in the wind, a butterfly whether black or alive with color, the hooting of an owl or the graceful song of a nightingale, everything seemed pregnant with meaning. (chapter 8)
  • When she came out, pure and beautiful in her immaculate smock, all that weighed on his heart seemed to melt. She exists, you simply have to remind yourself that such women exist in order to reconcile yourself with life, he told himself. (Chapter 10)
  • Nothing would stop her from doing something, even if it killed her. Doing something for absolutely no reason, perhaps, but still doing something, such is what life demands from human beings. Faint whiffs of hope would stir up illusions she had thought quite dead. So this is what helps, she told herself as she walked. So this is why suicide cannot be the normal culmination of a human life. I am going to try to do something. I'm going to try to believe that I can still make myself useful. She looked at the sky, the trees, the flowers, the people, as if she were seeing them for the first time. She opened her handbag and put money in the hands of beggars; confronted with a skeletal mother and her four starving, crying babies, she took stock of her own sufferings and found them acceptable. (chapter 12)
  • I am afraid to face the fact that, no matter what you do, man is a wolf to man. More than anyone else I know, I have the desire to stand firm and fight for a good cause. But not with weapons. With my ideas. My hand extended in brotherhood, offering a fresh and sober example. I would follow anyone who passed austerity laws to halt run-way decadence and the vanity of unchecked ambition; I would support whoever could abolish hunger and poverty, prison cells and torture, who would treat every man as a man and include everyone in the national dialogue. If I decide not to belong to any party, if I wish to remain free, then let that choice be mine. Alone and unarmed, I want the right to plead for justice and freedom and to shout from the rooftops that which I believe to be the truth... (chapter 13)

Quotes about Marie Vieux-Chauvet

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  • Marie Vieux-Chauvet is for me one of Haiti’s iconic female writers. She wrote primarily during the Duvalier dictatorship and her personal story is a powerful story of the choices writers during that time were forced to make...One of the wonderful things about her work is that she also writes so exquisitely, so beautifully.
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