Louis-Philippe Dalembert

Louis-Philippe Dalembert was born in 1962 in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. His father died soon after he was born, after which he grew up amongst women. When he was six his family moved from the workers’ district to a wealthier area of the town. He loved going to the open air cinema and watched the films from outside because he couldn’t afford a ticket. From an early age he was already thinking up dialogues for the films, honing his narrative talent. After working in Haiti as a journalist he went to Paris in 1986 to study Journalism and Comparative Literature. He was intensively concerned with Magic Realism and graduated with a thesis on the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier.

Dalembert published his first collections of poems in 1982, and his first prose collection in 1993. In his autobiographical début novel »Le crayon du bon Dieu n’a pas de gomme« (1996, tr: God’s Pencil Doesn’t Have an Eraser) the main character returns to his childhood home after 25 years; the harbour district of a Caribbean capital. He fills the alleyways with his memories and realises that his departure as a child from this place was at the same time a final departure from childhood itself. Return and farewell, »vagabonding« as the author likes to call it, are recurring themes in his work. His second novel, »L’autre face de la mer« (1998, tr: The Other Face of the Sea) also tackles these issues. In poetical language he tells a Haitian family saga about farewells, exile and flight. Dalembert has himself visited countries in Africa, Europe, America and the Middle East during extended travels. He made literary use of the impressions of his »vagabonding«, and likes to identify connections between different regions which are not immediately apparent. The adventure novel »L’île du bout des rêves« (2003, tr: The Island from the End of Dreams) for example is the story of a treasure seeker and is set in Naples, Cuba, Hispaniola and the pirate base on Tortuga. The plot links the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, two places which are for him »meeting places par excellence«.

Dalembert is one of Haiti’s most popular authors. He has won several prizes, like the Prix RFO du Livre, Premio Casa de las Américas and currently lives in Berlin as a 2010 guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin program.