Dany Laferrière: Das Rätsel der Rückkehr

2014 Award winners

Translated from the French by Beate Thill
Verlag Das Wunderhorn 2013
(L'énigme du retour; Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle, Paris 2009 & Les Éditions du Boréal/Montréal 2009)

About the book

The news of the death of his father unsettles the balance in the life of the narrator, causing him to return to his Haitian homeland 33 years after leaving. He travels around Haiti and reflects in a mixture of epic poem, travelogue, and autobiography on a country shaped by corruption, poverty, and political persecution, but also by hope and tropical explosions of taste. Above all, Laferrière tells of the unbridled power of poetry.

Dany Laferrière, © Beauregard

About the author

Dany Laferrière, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1953, who moved to Montreal thirty years ago, is one of the most important figures in Caribbean Francophone literature and one of Haiti’s most important exile writers. His first novel with the provocative title Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer was published in 1985. For his additional novels, he received numerous awards, for example Prix Médicis, and was recently inducted into the Académie française. The German translation of L’énigme du retour is his first publication in Germany.

Recent publications:
Le Cri des oiseaux fousÉditiones Zulma, Paris 2015

L'Art presque perdu de ne rien faire
Boréal, Montréal 2011

Journal d’un écrivain en pyjama
Mémoire d'encier, Montreal 2013

Beate Thill, © Sabine Schnell

About the translator

Beate Thill, born in 1952, studied English language and literature and geography. She works as a radio reporter and writes on subjects including translation theory, feminism, and film theory. As a literary translator from English and French, she works with a focus on literature from “the South,” in particular Africa and the Caribbean, and has translated works by Assia Djebar, Abdelwahab Meddeb und Tchicaya U Tam’si. She discovered the work of poet and cultural critic Édouard Glissant for the German book market, translating his works and editing an anthology of his poetry.

Recent publications:
Dany Laferrière: Tagebuch eines Schriftstellers im Pyjama
Verlag Das Wunderhorn 2015, trans. by Beate Thill
(Journal d’un écrivain en pyjama; Mémoire d'encier, Montreal 2013)

Patrick Chamoiseau: Die Spur des Anderen
Wunderhorn 2014, trans. by Beate Thill
(L'empreinte à Crusoé, Gallimard, Paris 2012)

Assia Djebar: Nächte in Straßburg
Fischer: Frankfurt 2012, trans. by Beate Thill
(Les nuits de Strasbourg, Babel, Paris 1997)

Patrick Chamoiseau & Édouard Glissant: Brief an Barack Obama. Die unbezähmbare Schönheit der Welt
Wunderhorn 2011, trans. by Beate Thill
(L'intraitable beauté du monde. Adresse à Barack Obama, Galaade Éditions, Paris 2009)

The jury on the 2014 award winners

Das Rätsel der Rückkehr is Dany Laferrière’s most personal and, at the same time, his most literarily successful book: an effortless soliloquy in which the Francophone author journeys to the land of his birth, tracing the footsteps of his deceased father; a poetic monologue like a saxophone solo, beginning in Canada, his country of residence, and ending in his bitterly poor Haitian homeland, a literary search for identity that naturally draws the reader into the text. Dany Laferrière, winner of the Prix Médicis and recent inductee into the Académie française, congenially takes up the challenge of Aimé Césaire’s manifesto Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. Beate Thill’s sensitive translation strikingly captures the rhythm of the original, in its shifts between verse, prose, and essayistic reflection”