Today’s book selection is Of Rice and Blood, by Paul Anvers (Harcourt and Brace, 144pp) and translated by translation genius Carrol F. Coates (the original title was Rizières de Sang).
Of Rice and Blood takes us in Haiti in the early 1990s. The opening setting is the little town of Jean-Denis where Jacques Rameau, an agronomist and Marlène Auguste, a schoolteacher, find themselves part of a barricade-filled, tire-burning, curfew-setting, coup d’etat filled world. Marlène’s father has been murdered because of his political leanings, and after successfully hitching a ride with the agronomist Jacques, the life of Marlène and her mother Lisemène alter drastically.
Although he works in the humble hills of Jean-Denis, Jacques belongs to Haiti’s aristocracy in Port-au-Prince, in a family who for generations have thrived on marrying foreigners. From the beginning, when Jacques begins to throw Marlène furtive glances after rescuing her and her mother from paramilitary men hunting them, one knows that if this develop in a full-pledged relationship, things will not be easy.
And they aren’t, not just where their love is concerned, but with everything. The army pursuing Marlène’s family, eventually have its way with most of her family members, and Matthieu, the newly-wed brother of Jacques and his photographer-wife Judith will become preys too.
Of Rice and Blood captures the paranoia, the uncertainty and the violence of a particularly tumultuous period in the history of Haiti. In the back notes of the novel, it is indicated that at one point Jonathan Demme had optioned the novel. Hopefully one day, there is a film version.