Bowdoin College is worlds away from Haiti, and Dany Laferrière is worlds away from the young man he was when he fled his native Haiti and sought refuge in Montreal at the age of 23. Today, the 58 year-old has earned international esteem and numerous accolades as a novelist, journalist and screenwriter.
Laferrière will be on campus on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, he will field questions following a screening of a documentary that chronicles his life, "La Dérive douce d'un enfant de Petit-Gove" ("The Gentle Drifting of a Haitian Child") by Venezuelan director Pedro Ruiz. Laferrière will also visit French courses and the French table during his stay.
A commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his debut novel, the film follows Laferrière through Montreal, Paris, New York, Port-au-Prince, Haiti—his birthplace—and Petit-Gove—his childhood home.
The artist's first novel, "Comment faire l'amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer" ("How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired") brought him out of anonymity and poverty in 1985, four years after he immigrated to Canada. The author eventually adapted the story into a feature-length film which he wrote with another Montreal-based filmmaker, Richard Sadler, and directed himself.
Isabelle Choquet and Jay Ketner, both visiting assistant romance language professors, are responsible for bringing Laferrière to campus. Choquet first met the filmmaker and author while doing research in France.
Describing Laferrière as "one of the most famous Francophone writers at the moment," Choquet said she was excited to have a unique and accomplished writer come to campus.
"Known for his unconventional and controversial perspective, Dany Laferrière has explored a wide array of topics in his work," she said. "While some of his writing depicted the nightmarish atmosphere of the Duvalier dictatorship that terrorized the Caribbean island nation of Haiti in the 1970s and 1980s, Laferrière has also lent a keen eye on his adopted North American home. Living in Montreal, Canada, and for some time in Miami, he has produced novels and other less classifiable writings that examine relationships between the races and genders, and convey his own experience as a migrant in a new country."
Among the awards his writings have won are the French Prix RFO du Livre, the Martinican Prix Carbet de Lyceens, and the Canadian Governor's General Literary Award.
During his stay at Bowdoin, Laferrière will also visit French courses and the French table.
The screening of "The Gentle Drifting of a Haitian Child" will take place on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Laferrière will field questions in both French and English.