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Book Review published in CARIBNEWS
7/31-8/06/2002 on page 28


Fort-Dimanche, Dungeon of Death tells the awful story of a young man who survives a death to which he has been sentenced in the terrible physical and psychological condition in the native Haiti.

The narrator initiated into the demeaning conditions of the Fort-Dimanche when he is arrested by the agents of the repressive Duvalier regime in Haiti in December 1971. Innocently celebrating a birthday and his first wedding anniversary, he is at first completely oblivious of the bizarre occurences which will soon lead to his arrest and to his separation from his wife of one year and his newborn son.

Patrick Lemoine's crime, according to his accusers, is that he is plotting with his best friend, Addy Seraphin, to overthrow the government and he has conspired to commit murder. Subject to all sorts of degradation, insults, torture, unthinkable pain and interrogation, Lemoine is cloistered in the squalid confines of Casernes Dessalines and subject to solitary confinement. Under these conditions, Lemoine retreats to his inner self and finds a reserve of discipline of mind and body that prepares him for survival. He strategizes as to how he will get information of the outside world and prepares himself for the experience which awaits him in the Dungeon of Death at Fort- Dimanche.

And when he is transported to the Dungeon of Death, the experience is as horrible and dehumanizing as he feared it would be. Hopelessness, deprivation, the breaking of the human spirit...this is what this place and its wardens mean to convey.

And they do so in the way that all oppressors do: with intimidation, with deprivation

of human essentials of food, air, water, light medical care and privacy. Indeed the detainees are stripped off their individualism and their hope in preparation for the inevitable sentence of death at the hands of imprisoners.
The spiral into this death hole places Lemoine in contact with a cross-section of Haitian society: the rich and the poor; the old and the young; the intellectual and the unschooled; the political insiders and the rebels. Lemoine determines that to survive he must connect with those who engage in constructive activities to pass the time: prayer, music and the creation of tools.

But the conditions take their toll on the prisoners and Lemoine too succombs to the ravages of sickness brought on by the notorious conditions. As mysteriously as they were entrapped, so too are they released after 5 years of imprisonment. Lemoine and friend, Seraphin are returned to a more humane condition at Casernes Dessalines. Here they are given some basic creature comforts:better food, a toothbrush and medical attention. And with the election of a new president in the United States in the person of Jimmy Carter,

there appears to be hope of real relief.

Freedom comes as unexpectedly as it was taken away as Lemoine and friend are released to their famiies. After a brief exile in Jamaica, Lemoine is finally able to go to New-York where he is reunited with his mother and his ordeal comes to a close.

But the memory of the time lost, and the friends and other prisoners who did not share his good fortune to emurge alive from the dungeons of the oppressive political sytem is what this book is about. Lemoine vows, like others before him, not to forget the heroes who did not survive the awful pain and suffering of Fort-Dimanche.

Published originally in 1997, Fort Dimanche, Dungeon of Death has been reissued by the the author with the original translation from French by Frantz Haspil. The revised edition has been ably edited by Maryse Prézeau. In this time of terrorism in the United States, the work resonated not only among the Haitian people but among freedom loving people everywhere. Fort Dimanche, Dungeon of Death is available at www.fordi9.com or P.O. Box 6070, Freeport, NY 11520.

******************. Dr. Marcia V. Keizs was formerly the Senior Editor of CARIBNEWS and President of York College and BMCC of CUNY. She is currently Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Bronx Commu-nity College of CUNY

It is nice to know that your website reminds of us that our family members did not die in vain! (Melissa M. Poux- Aug 29, 2007)
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