When the Pipirite Sings

E-book – $18.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3979-4

Trade Paper – $18.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3978-7
Publication Date
April 2019
Trim Size
6 x 9
ISBN
0-8101-3978-2

When the Pipirite Sings

Selected Poems
Jean Métellus, Translated by Haun Saussy

When the Pipirite Sings gathers poems by the noted Haitian poet, novelist, and neurologist Jean Métellus, who died in January 2014. Along with other signature works, this volume includes the first English translation of Métellus’s visionary epic poem, “Au pipirite chantant” (“When the Pipirite Sings”), widely regarded as his masterpiece.

Translated by formidable comparative literature scholar Haun Saussy, When the Pipirite Sings expresses an acute historical consciousness and engages recurrent Haitian themes—the wrenching impact of colonialism and underdevelopment, the purposes of education, and the merging of spiritual and temporal power. And, as always with Métellus’s poetry, the range of voices and points of view evokes other genres, including fiction and cinema. This eminently readable book has formal and thematic ties to Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, central to the canon of French-language postcolonial writings.

In addition to many books of poetry, Métellus published novels, chiefly about the remembered Haiti of his youth, and plays about the conquest of the Caribbean. His nonfiction included reflections on Haitian history and politics, on the iconography of slave emancipation, and studies of aphasia and dyslexia.
About the Author

JEAN METELLUS (1937–2014) is the author of several novels, books of poetry, and plays, all written in French and largely untranslated. After an education in his native Haiti, he worked as a teacher. In 1959, to escape the Duvalier dictatorship, Métellus moved to Paris, where he studied linguistics and medicine, specializing in neurology. The magazine Les Lettres Nouvelles published his poem “Au pipirite chantant” in 1973, beginning his career as a poet and writer. Some of Métellus’s early poems were also published by Jean-Paul Sartre in Les Temps Modernes. He was the recipient of many literary prizes.

HAUN SAUSSY is a professor at the University of Chicago, where he teaches in the departments of comparative literature, East Asian languages and literatures, and social thought. A former president of the American Comparative Literature Association, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has published numerous works on literary theory, intercultural comparison, translation, and poetics.
Reviews

“Jean Métellus’s strikingly original voice is finally available in a splendid translation that captures the epic sweep and tragic thrust of his hallucinatory style. Haun Saussy renders with subtle poetic nuances the poet’s engagement with Haiti’s mythic gods, its landscapes and natural disasters, and the heartbreaking fate of its children. It will now be possible to teach Métellus in world literature courses, alongside Homer, Aimé Césaire, René Depestre, or Derek Wolcott, and appreciate anew his remarkable talent and singular vision.”
—Françoise Lionnet, author of Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity

"Haiti’s contributions to literature have thus far been scanted in the English-speaking world. Jean Métellus, physician-poet, has remained obscure to those who might read Rimbaud or Valéry. This is all about to change through this book, the expression of both Métellus’s and Saussy’s love for Haiti. When the Pipirite Sings should remain a standard-setting effort in the broader project of translating an increasingly disparate world." —Paul Farmer

“Saussy’s translation remarkably preserves Métellus’s poetic imagination and the Haitian matrix in which his entire literary work is inscribed. It skillfully transfers into English the coalescence of the poet’s native land with the universal, the deliberate language turbulence, the ‘thought-rhythm-images’ association, the words’ effervescence, and the sparkling images of Metellus’s poetic language.” 
—Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, Professor Emerita of French and Comparative Literature, Stanford University

“This collection of poems, published originally forty years ago, is already a classic in the French and Francophone literary world. This brilliant English translation could not come any sooner. With a unique blend of cadence and precision, Haun Saussy extricates the essence of Métellus’s powerful and poetic voice one would have thought was only translatable in Haytian Kreyòl.” —Daniel Desormeaux, University of Chicago