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L'Énigme du retour

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,350 ratings  ·  113 reviews
Un jeune homme de vingt-trois ans a quitté son pays de façon précipitée. Un homme épuisé y retourne, trente-trois ans plus tard. Le jeune homme est passé de l’étouffante chaleur de Port-au-Prince à l’interminable hiver de Montréal. Du Sud au Nord. De la jeunesse à l’âge mûr. Entre ces deux pôles se trouve coincé le temps pourri de l’exil.

Une nuit, un coup de fil lui appre
Paperback, 286 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Boréal
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Friederike Knabe
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
On his last day in Montreal, the "cold white city where I've known the strongest passions" and his "home" for several decades, Wilbert reflects on exile and loss:
"Exile in time is more pitiless / Than exile in space.
I miss / My childhood more intensely / than my country."

What must it feel like to return to the country of your birth and childhood that you have not visited and experienced in more than thirty years? And, that you had to leave in the dead of night after friends and associates disapp
Vince Will Iam
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Laferrière is one the most famous Haitian writers and a new member of the Académie Française.
As he was only 4, he and his family had to escape the brutal dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier in the 1960s because of his father's political views.

The narrator who now lives in Montreal and is well into his fifties decides to come back to his native Haiti more than 30 years after having left it. The language is vivid and lyrical. A must-read for all those who like me have left their tropical homeland f
Friederike Knabe
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-lit, memoirs
What must it feel like to return to the country of your birth and childhood that you have not visited and experienced in more than thirty years? And, that you had to leave in the dead of night after friends and associates disappeared or where found dead... Why go back at all, what will it mean? Told in the first person, Dany Laferrière has written this outstanding and strangely absorbing novel that appears to be an amalgam of imaginative fiction and subtly disguised real life memoir, set against ...more

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge - A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you (#14)
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is fascinating. What caught my attention from the beginning was its form. I am not sure it's truly a "novel" ("roman"), I thought it was more of a long poetic essay. The combination of free verse and prose is enchanting. The subject was also very new for me, as I know so little about Haiti. And as any good book would do, this book made that previously obscure to me country somewhat closer. What made this book especially captivating were the common points I have with the author. The narr ...more
Joan Damiens
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very poetical testimony from Dany Laferriere. We follow him in his way back to Haiti, where he was born and which he left due to his political involvement against the authorities. His father also was in exile, but not with him and when he died, Dany went back home, chasing this own past and his father's acquaintances and memories.
The form is very part, mixing verses and prose. It looks like small haikus, each of them offering a vivid and very sensual (related to all senses) image of Haiti. Th
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, read-for-uni, 2020
The book is seeped in rich description of place and people that sucks you in and keeps you immersed in this world that, through the eyes of the narrator, is so familar but so foreign. The text slips in and out of poetry, creating a transient and slippery style which flows just as the narrative. I had to read it in one day for a lecture tomorrow, so I read it in English, but I definitely want to go back and read it in the original French - a language so poetic that this style seems to be perfect ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
I had a hard time putting this book down. The main character gets a telephone call in Montreal, telling him that his estranged father has died in Brooklyn. Both father and son are from Haiti, both had fled, at different times the violence. The son returns to Haiti after being gone for 30 years.

I loved that this book was written in both verse and prose.
Helena K.
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A book that every person who lived abroad and one day return to home should read. It is rich in impressions and feelings that share those who ventured elsewhere.
Claudia  -
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Windsor Laferriere fled his country during the brutal dictatorship of Baby Doc and settled in Canada. When he learns of his father’s death, he decides to travel back to Haiti to give his mother the news and to re-connect with his history and family.

He experiences Haiti as someone who grew up there but is now an outsider. He is shocked by the poverty and day-to-day struggle of its inhabitants, still there is a deep connection and love and the ever-present memories, a mix of sadness and joy.

Lusine Mkrtchyan
Apr 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Normally I dont like reading poetry in foreign languages, its something I can enjoy only in my mother tongue. Mixed of poetry and prose, this was a beautiful book on returning to ones birth country after decades of exile.

I felt every other paragraph i should highlight in my kindle to go back to read again. Maybe this should be a mandatory book to read for everyone who reimmigrates back to his/her own country or even for everyone who for whatever reason had to leave.

I deliberately stretched the
Timothy Neesam
In The Return, author Dany Laferriere describes his move from Haiti to Montreal, and then his return to Haiti after the death of his father. Using a mix of poetry and prose Laferriere views Montreal (not so crazy about the weather, but the girls...) and his return to Haiti (the politics, the poverty...) with both resignation and romance. Laferriere has an excellent eye for detail, capturing the bittersweetness of returning home and viewing his homeland with the eyes of an outsider. It's thoughtf ...more
Carol Seidl
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Laferierre recounts his experience returning to Haiti after several decades in Canada. His depictions are pithy, thought-provoking, and insightful. He is a wonderful writer that seems capable of perfectly placing each word on the page. There are few books that I vow to return to. This one is absolutely worth a second read--both to revisit the story and to reconsider the amazing craft that this author brings to his work.
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook, library, canadian
This was a really interesting read. I found the style very challenging - partly prose, partly poetry. I don't normally read poetry in English, so reading it in French was very challenging. I think the language is really beautiful, but I'm not sure my comprehension really did it justice. It's a really interesting story about going back and visiting the place you grew up. You feel like you should belong and you don't. ...more
Aliza Prodaniuk
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! This book was chosen for my book club and the form - long poem - was an unexpected (happy) surprise. Dealing with poverty, hunger, violence, and place (to name a few), The Return follows Dany’s return to Haiti after living in exile for thirty years in Canada. The narrative commands attention, and it it will certainly force you to confront challenging and vivid themes. I couldn't put it down! ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
A novel told in a combination of verse and prose. The narrator (also named Dany) hears of his father’s death in exile, and returns from exile himself. It deals with exile and family and identity, and the aftermath of Haiti’s dictatorships. I was annoyed a few times at blatant sexism, and in one case a rape joke of sorts. But it also had fantastic passages like this one:

“For three-quarters of the people on this planet
only one type of travel is possible
and that’s to find themselves without papers
Correy Baldwin
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
A memoir thinly disguised as a novel, about the return to one’s homeland after a life in exile, and bearing the complicated legacy of an absent father. The book could have benefited from a more cohesive vision, but the reflections on exile and on return were wise and rich, and born from a great emotional depth and sensitivity.
Mar 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The spare but eloquently rendered prose creates this autobiography which becomes more like a kinf of memory painting as one reads and moves deeper into the work. Much is brought to life as illustrated by Laferriere of the places he lives and works, the cultures and peoples he encounters.
This is a novel (probs autobiographical? it’s v memoir adjacent anyway) abt a son (exiled to Montreal Canada) returning to Haiti after his father’s (exiled to New York) death. It is written in vignettes and some are poems, some are prose & some are a mix of the two. Very beautiful and sad and funny and I learned a lot abt Haiti.
This was the first time I've read this author's work, and some of the writing was really quite lovely.

Unfortunately, as someone else posted here, the author seems pretty arrogant --there are some large didactic sections about Haitian history and foreigner involvement that get pretty annoying, particularly considering the protagonist/author's apparently complete detachment from his country after going into exile -- and he also does a lot of "ogling." Most of the women in the book, even when seen
Shonna Froebel
This is a fascinating novel/memoir told mostly in poems. Laferrière came to Montreal from Haiti as a refugee fleeing the regime of Baby Doc. His father before him fled to New York from Papa Doc when Dany was only 4. When his father Winston dies, Dany struggles with how that makes him feel, telling the story of his emotions, his trip to New York and his father's funeral, and his subsequent return to Haiti. In Haiti, he feels both like a native and like a foreigner, and he reconnects with family a ...more
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part poem and part story an amazing read. One of my favourite descriptions describes Dany observing a reader in a bookshop "changing centuries" as he travels in his mind to the time and place in the book, it is on page 9-10. This is the feeling you get from reading this book, like the author has packed you in his luggage and taken you to Haiti with him.

Later in the book meeting an old friend Dany discusses the central themes of novels that different authors write in various countries. For Haitia
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book where the writing switches between poetry and prose effortlessly. Such vivid images in so few words. The book describes the author's feelings in exile in Canada, the death of his father and finally his return to Haiti, the land of his birth. His father fled to the USA under Papa Doc and the author to Canada under Baby Doc. So much history, so much feeling. The descriptions of the poverty and love of ones homeland will stay for a long time. ...more
A very successful blend of prose and poetry, and a sheer pleasure to read. I had both the original French and the translated English versions in front of me as I read and found that the poetic cadence is totally lost in the English translation.

Example: “Je ne fais pas long feu car je ne joue pas à ce jeu.”

becomes: “ I don’t stick around because I don’t play that game.”

Do yourself a favor, read it in French if you can. It's a lovely read.
Purple Iris
This book most definitely did not live up to the hype. The writing is no better than the average Laferriere book. The little poem-like sections did not read like poetry. Overall, pretty disappointing.
Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Again with the poetry that is more about focusing your attention on things than being sonorous (woot, sonorous!) – which is interesting.
This one isn't resonating with me yet, but I am still only at the beginning.
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Although I found him at times to be arrogant and a bit of a skeeze (seriously, how many young girls did he ogle??), it was beautifully written and extremely personal.
Marc Abraham
I didn't find "The Enigma of the Return" the easiest book to read. It does give a good insight into Haiti and its society, but I struggled with the way the author, Danny Lafrriere, has wriiten up some of the (inner) dialogues. ...more
Jim Mattews
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful story told through "poetic prose." Gripping powerful images on every page. ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
half prose/half poetry all super pretty
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Né à Port-au-Prince en avril 1953, Dany Laferrière a grandi à Petit-Goâve. Il écrit pour le journal Le Petit Samedi soir et fait partie de l’équipe de Radio Haïti. Il quitte son pays natal à la suite de l’assassinat de son collègue et ami, le journaliste Gasner Raymond. Il s’installe au Québec où il occupe plusieurs emplois avant de commencer à écrire.

Son premier roman, Comment faire l’amour avec

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