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Monday, April 15, 2024

Ardain Isma: When an author speaks from the heart

ardain at jubestBy Jacob Davis

CSMS Magazine

Last week, I was able to read Ardain Isma’s newest novel, Midnight at Noon. The last time I read a novel like this one was 10 years ago. I was an undergraduate student in upstate New York. In my comparative literature class, I was asked to write a report on Caribbean Literature. In doing so, I was introduced to General Sun, My Brother, one of the greatest Haitian novels published in 1956 under the dazzling craftsmanship of Jacques Stéphen Alexis. Since then, I fell in love with Caribbean literature.

I read many novels after that first encounter; all of which were well choreographed with the same usual form of resistance against outright injustices. None of them, however, amounted to the emotion and the wherewithal found in General Sun.  

Just when I thought I was losing hope, here comes Midnight at Noon, a sociopolitical novel, extremely graphic written by Ardain Isma, a man with a sharp mind and a profound patriotism. The novel begins with a 6-page prologue which constitutes a dramatic intro on behalf of Odilon, a young peasant from a village called Anwodo near the Haitian town of Saint Louis du Nord on the northern coast of Haiti. Odilon is seeking justice for the death of his younger brother Avisène arrested and later killed for a crime he did not commit.

The death of Avisène helps open Odilon’s eyes about the dehumanizing conditions of the millions of his fellow countrymen who live in the shadow of death. Odilon becomes instant revolutionary when one day at the cross of his path he meets the RRF (Revolutionary Resistance Front), an armed resistant organization fighting to overthrow a brutal regime in Port-au-Prince. RRF initial military successes embolden not just people from Saint Louis, but the entire Haitian population. The small town of Saint Louis suddenly becomes the unofficial capital of Haiti, taking by storm a country hungry for justice and democracy.

Odilon , though lack of education, is able to take charge of his village during the revolutionary movement. He and Thérèse, soon-to-be lovers for life, remain true to their profound conviction to the very end.

This novel walks a thin fine line between military stratagems and sociopolitical upheavals. In graphic details, Ardain describes the military takeover of Port-de-Paix, the main city of the country’s Northwest Province; he also describes in gut wrenching accounts the reaction of a Creole fascist regime in Port-au-Prince that is ready to commit genocide to stay in power. In Midnight at Noon, Ardain Isma puts in display the sharp divide between the tiny wealthy elite and the vast majority of the population who wallow in poverty every day. Midnight is when class antagonisms take a revolting nature.  

Ardain skillfully balances Odilon and Thérèse’s love story—their struggle to understand complex problems of society—with that of Olivier Zebeda, leader of the resistant movement, who believes that war is a means to an end, but not an end of itself. Through this novel, one can understand that most national liberation struggles chose war because all peaceful options have been used up, and the only way forward is an armed resistance. Ardain takes the reader in a frenzied mixture of joy and fear to the very last line of the novel. As the repression becomes systematic, forcing thousands to flee, Odilon takes Thérèse on a journey to the unknown, to the unchartered waters of The Bahamas, taking a last stand against the odds.

Because of Ardain Isma’s novelistic craftsmanship, I can now fairly say that I have a pretty good grasp of the Haitian reality and, by extension, the reality of oppressed people in deprived countries around the world. This novel is not just a joy to read, it is a masterpiece to be cherished.   

Note: Midnight at Noon was produced by Educavision, can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book sellers. Make it as a gift for the holiday.   

Jacob Davis is editorialist for CSMS Magazine. He can be reached at publisher@csmsmagazine.org .

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