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Love, Anger, Madness

Lesson 50 Chapter 5 Module 5

Today’s lesson is a literary masterpiece, heralded in Haiti and France, even though the author died in exile in New York City. Which is unfortunate, it should get more love in the world (the 2009 English translation is helping with that!)

When Marie Vieux-Chauvet was living in Haiti in the early-mid 1900’s, she experienced and wrote about some of the darkest underpinnings of sex, race, class, and violence that ran rampant on her island for most of her life.

This book, a triptych (collection of three shorter novellas), is called Love, Anger, Madness and was suppressed on its publication.

Meaning she got too close to reality for the powers-that-be to want the general public reading it.

Yesterday we talked about holding something back from the reader, not necessarily telling them your whole concept straightaway, no matter how much people like to know things. Doing so strangely creates more devoted readers, than those who fly-by your writing to grab some data then zip away.

But with the title alone of Vieux-Chauvet’s triptych, one would think they know exactly what they are going to be reading about: A love story, a tale of anger, and the affliction of madness.

Heck, the book jacket and publishing description seem to sell the concepts of these premises (see how that works?!) that simply:

In “Love,” Claire is the eldest of three sisters who occupy a single house. Her dark skin and unmarried status make her a virtual servant to the rest of the family. Consumed by an intense passion for her brother-in-law, she finds redemption in a criminal act of rebellion.

In “Anger,” a middle-class family is ripped apart when twenty-year-old Rose is forced to sleep with a repulsive soldier in order to prevent a government takeover of her father’s land.

And in “Madness,” René, a young poet, finds himself trapped in a house for days without food, obsessed with the souls of the dead, dreading the invasion of local military thugs, and steeling himself for one final stand against authority.

But what makes this book so compelling is that you start each novella thinking you know what the story is going to be, then it takes a sharp turn and explores another aspect of the premise in a way you are completely not expecting.

Love is actually about a terrible relationship and unrequited frustrations. Anger is actually about the deceit that won the anti-heroic family their homestead in the first place. Madness is not just about one person’s madness, but the madness surrounding him.

A good writer tells people exactly what they want to know. A great writer shows them the story so it makes and impact that lasts. A master writer shares the aspects and details of a concept that we may never have considered before.

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