22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Yanick Lahens

Portrait Yanick Lahens
© Hartwig Klappert

Yanick Lahens was born in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince in 1953. She received her higher education in Paris, also studying Literature at the Sorbonne. After completing her studies she returned to Haiti and taught at the state-run Ecole Normale Supérieure until 1995. She later worked for the Ministry of Culture. In 1998 she led the »Route de l’esclavage« project which, through scientific and artistic activities, dealt with the local legacies of slavery. As a founding member of the Haitian Writers Union, which organises readings in schools throughout the country, Lahens champions the struggle to combat illiteracy. She presents the radio programme »Entre Nous« and regularly writes for cultural journals in Haiti and the Antilles, including »Chemins critiques«, »Cultura« and »Boutures«. On the side, she is a member of the Conseil International d’Etudes Francophones, an international association for the promotion of Francophone culture, and has conducted a Social Contract Project with the largest platform of civil society organisations. She teaches at the University in Port-au-Prince.
Lahens began her own literary work comparatively late. First, she published numerous essays on literary theory, for example on the Haitian writer Marie Chauvet and Faulkner. In 1990 the first English translation of her essay »L’exil entre l’ancrage et la fuite: l’écrivain haïtien« (t: Exile between mooring and flight: The Haitian writer) was published in which she analyses the special status of Haitian literature, as written mostly in exile. Ever since the publication of her first collection of short stories, »Tante Résia et les Dieux« (1994; t: Aunt Résia and the Gods), Lahens has regularly published stories. In a sober mode in which feelings nevertheless come across vividly, she focuses on themes such as everyday violence against women, the living conditions of today’s young people and problems of life in the city. Her first novel, also translated into German, is entitled »Dans la maison du père« (2000; t: In father’s house) and takes as its central theme the problematic reappropriation of Haiti’s Afro-Caribbean roots. The protagonist, a sheltered daughter from Haiti’s middle class, discovers, to the horror of her Western-oriented parents, a passion for traditional Voodoo dance. The story of personal emancipation and searching for identity unfolds alongside an illuminating portrait of the country, in fact the first Latin American nation to gain its independence, although today it figures among the poorest of the developing countries.
In 2002 the author was awarded the New Writer’s Prize of the Initiative LiBeraturpreis at the Leipzig Book Fair. Recently her third short story collection, »La folie était venue avec la pluie« (2006; t: Madness came with the rain) appeared. Lahens is presently working on her second novel. She lives in Port-au-Prince.

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