Musings on Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! In her second novel, Edwidge Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.

I should probably start off this review by divulging the truth – Edwidge Danticat is one of my favourite authors, so some bias in this review should definitely be expected. I was first introduced to Danticat through a short story from this very book, called Nineteen Thirty-Seven and the more I’ve read of Danticat, the more I’ve appreciated and loved her work.

Krik? Krak! I think does a fantastic job of talking about issues that pervade Haiti without making it overtly political. Through Krik? Krak! you read about separated lovers due to political problems in Haiti, or the 1937 massacre at the river that borders the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Considering the political issues in the DR right now, this book is kind of fantastic in giving readers some sort of a context.

Danticat’s writing itself is poetic and beautiful. I feel any attempts at describing it would be to do a disservice to Danticat. Here is a short quote from Nineteen Thirty-Seven:

Until we moved to the city, we went to the river every year on the first of November. The women would all dress in white. My mother would hold my hand tightly as we walked toward the water. We were all daughters of that river, which had taken our mothers from us. Our mothers were the ahses and we were the light. Our mothers were the embers and we were the sparks. Our mothers were the flames and we were the blaze. We came from the bottom of that river where the blood never stops flowing, where my mother’s dive towards life – her swim among all those bodies slaughtered in flight – gave her those wings of flames. The river was the place where it had all begun.

Ultimately, Krik! Krak? is about community, with its short stories being subtly tied together. It’s about the telling of stories, it’s about the claim to freedom that many Haitians have been denied. It’s a book that I would highly recommend. If you’re interested in learning more about Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Danticat’s book The Farming of Bones tells a pretty wonderful and poignant story of the Nineteen Thirty-Seven massacre.

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