Socialist Worker

Three novels of Haiti by Madison Smartt Bell

Issue No. 2186

The great Haitian revolution of 1791-1803 is one of the most inspiring events in world history. And it is central to understanding what has happened to Haiti since.

There are marvelous histories of the period – the three novels by Madison Smartt Bell are excellent.

All Souls’ Rising

The first volume, introduces the reader to Doctor Hébert, newly arrived in Haiti from France.

He finds himself witness to a regime of incredible cruelty.

Bell uses this to explain the ferocity of the slaves’ revolt, and to understand the brutality of slavery and capitalism.

Out of the great revolt emerged Toussaint L’Ouverture, the man whose genius was to guide it to victory.

Bell shows the individuals, but always in the context of the wider historical process.

Master of the Crossroads

It’s now 1794.

Toussaint is leading his troops to victory over English and Spanish invaders, over the French political establishment, and in a civil uprising for control of the infant island republic.

In describing Toussaint’s victory and its results, Bell gives us a detailed understanding of this extraordinary figure.

The book also looks at the way the different characters – black and white – try to come to terms with the transformation of the world around them.

The Stone the Builder Refused

The third volume looks at the events of 1802, when a French army landed in Haiti in an attempt to overthrow Toussaint’s government and restore slavery.

The book shows the ingenuity of the black armies as they fight to retain freedom.

Available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to »

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Tue 26 Jan 2010, 19:23 GMT
Issue No. 2186
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