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Original Text
POUR HAITI - no 29 et 30 - Sept - Dec, 1998
Reading Notes published in POUR HAITI ( 10th Anniversary Edition, 1998) by Yves-Robert Dougé
Yves-Robert Dougé M.D.
July 1, 1948 - January 25, 2004
"Fort-Dimanche, Fort-la-Mort" or the Duvalerian Horror

Upon closing Patrick Lemoine’s book, the first reaction is to wonder whether we just had a bad dream, say to ourselves that we will soon awake from this nightmare, and return to reality. No, it is impossible that such horrors can happen on our planet; they can only occur in a parallel world governed by unknown aliens. But the reality of life is stubborn and exasperating; it imprints in our visual minds terrifying events without concern for their impact on our consciousness. Patrick Lemoine followed the path of this reality and depicted in their raw, unencumbered form the vicissitudes of the five years spent in Haitian prisons. Fort-Dimanche, Fort-la-Mort is a disturbing testimonial on the physical and moral human degradation orchestrated by the militia of a totalitarian regime.
In fact the first reading of the book remains skin-deep in that it arouses in us sensations that are primal – the visceral sensations of hatred, fear, rejection for the torturers mixed with compassion and empathy for the victims. This surgical description of a long descent into Duvalier’s dungeons leave us at first completely numb; it is like receiving a bullet straight in the chest only to land with our behinds in the air. This shocking experience is even ruder to those of us who are Haitian and realize that we are the author’s peers. We rediscover friends that we had in our youth with whom we played soccer, and who suddenly disappeared one day. We find them again in this book, subject to unthinkable torments, diminished, skeletal, and sometimes dead, having fallen victims to a system of incarceration beyond belief.
Upon finishing this book for the first time, we are left drunk, filled with memories of our friends’ faces, the nightmarish visions of those Haitian prisons, the brutality and cowardice of some men.

All these scenes are telescoped in our minds, one horror chasing another, as the author makes no sobering attempt to tame the events. He describes the reality that he lived without sugarcoating; the unnamable filth of the cell, the physical and moral decay of the prisoners, and at the end, we are left nauseous by this first contact. Of course, there exists in this darkness some sunny moments of solidarity between cell comrades, even the sudden discovery by a “macoute” that he has a soul; but those are so rare that they do not significantly uplift the tone of the book.
Once some time has passed, it is necessary to read this book again, which raises multiples questions relative to the author’s experiences, as well the analysis of the Duvaliers’ regime. How could have Patrick Lemoine landed in this inferno? If he were not a member of a movement of opposition – on this matter, there is no confirming or belying statement found in the book – it would only underscore the arbitrariness of the “macoutisme.” Here we could wonder on the reason for such prudence: Is it that his political conscience was not mature enough to move him into active militancy, or is it the fear of exposing friends (sort of denunciation?), a sentiment that persists even today among our compatriots? Perhaps the answer lies elsewhere. In fact, Patrick Lemoine received at times the assistance of brother masons or communist comrades in his cell, but these incidents remain secondary to the Catholic element that pervades throughout the book. This strong religious aspect incites primarily an inquiry of pure philosophical order: Do human beings preserve in themselves abilities necessary to overcome such perilous moments, or is it necessary to invoke the assistance of a superior power in order to prevail? In the same vein, the question raised by the author on God’s existence invites us to ponder on man’s ability to inflict evil upon others.

If indeed man is the reflection of a willful power that is beyond us, in Haiti, it is rather that of the devil.  In the final analysis, through the testimonial of a single human being, Patrick Lemoine manifests to us the disastrous destiny of thousands of Haitians who were trapped in the grip of the Duvalierist dictatorship, their despair, their horizon seemingly shut out forever. In fact, we found a quality essential to Fort-Dimanche-Fort-la-Mort where the author was able to associate his personal story to that of all of his companions of misfortune.

A calendar of everyone’s adversities, the chronicle of deaths alone, constitutes a remarkable performance and presents itself as a valuable part of the Duvalierism’s history, which must be written. In fact, we wonder whether the author has a phenomenal memory, or had he, in the early days in jail, thought of committing to memory certain factual notes for posterity? Other books have been written on the subject, but none offers such a detailed account of the incarcerated and their disappearance. Patrick Lemoine has posed the first stone of this useful legacy, for suffice it not to say that there were torturers and victims; it is important to give them a face so that justice can be rendered at last, even posthumously. A nation builds itself through the layers of its memory; today’s generation must be told of the strengths and weaknesses of their forebears, their courageous acts as well as their abuses. There is a project to transform this terrible Fort-Dimanche into a monument erected to glorify the victims that succumb to the thirty years of terror under the Duvaliers; but it seems to have been scratched. We can only hope that it will be revived some day so that, at last, next to the names that Patrick Lemoine cited, can be added all of those that they would want us to more or less forget.

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