I haven't read much of the more modern fiction on Haiti. I have Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory lying around somewhere, its Oprah's Book Club label insistently staring at me. I suppose I should really read more than the first 5 pages but it looks like one of those difficult reads. Maybe later.
For now though, the eight families (light skinned) who own almost all of Haiti are happy to continue living in their paradise, shopping in the best department stores in Miami and Paris. Hell I met a number of their offspring at Harvard, bright, cultured and highly récherché in their intellectual outlook - much resented by some of the more common Haitian stock, I might add. I wonder about that resentment though: no one ever willingly gives up privilege. For the rest of the country I suppose it's mostly your garden variety third-world drudgery: a wellspring of ecological hell, cocktails of charcoal, asbestos and cheap chinese plastic imports, albeit washed down sprinklings of CNN, the BBC, the latest Hollywood bootleg dvds, brazillian football and global hip-hop and reggae.
If Jean-Bertrand Aristide, eventually aided by a reluctant Clinton, brought a promise of change and restoration to Haiti in the 1990s, the result a decade later is clearly disappointing if not disastrous as he too is now in ignimonious exile and Haiti is in the news again as a poor desperado. His journey from priest to president to exile (twice) and the historical parallels are begging for a couple of novels or at least a movie.
In the world of art, it is easy to dwell on blood-soaked despair and Haiti gives much material for this vein. In the real world of Haiti however, we should always remember that there are simply people trying to get on with it under very trying circumstances. Reading the Haitian landscape is only part of the puzzle, a very proud and capable people stare back at you exuberant and expectant.