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.
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.
they do so in the way that all oppressors do: with intimidation,
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
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
appears to be hope of real relief.
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.
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
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