Hadriana in All My Dreams

Written by Kaiama L. Glover (trans.) René Depestre
Review by Elicia Parkinson

The Haitian Carnival takes place over the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. René Depestre’s novel, originally published in 1988 and translated into English for the first time, takes place during the Carnival in 1938. A young Creole woman, Hadriana, is set to marry a young man in Jacmel, a village in Haiti. But on the morning of the wedding, Hadriana drinks from a mysterious drink and dies. The story turns into a magical-realism ride wherein the celebration of a wedding turns into the mourning of a funeral, while Hadriana herself becomes a zombie in a traditional Haitian voodoo.

This is not a standard zombie novel, however, nor is it a horror novel, so one should not be turned off by the terminology. The story is beautifully written in lyrical prose; Depestre was known as a poet first and foremost. This novel was the winner of the Prix Renaudot in 1988, a highly esteemed literary award, and it’s not difficult to understand why, even almost 30 years after its publication.

Readers interested in Haitian culture will appreciate this novel and will enjoy Depestre’s details about the voodoo culture as it was understood in the first half of the 20th century.