An impassioned case against the Haitian folk belief in zombies and voodoo, inspired by a true story.
In late 1989, local authorities of Roche-Ã -Bateau, Haiti, arrested Belavoix Doricent, a destitute local man, for the murder of his nephew Wilfrid Doricent. Belavoix’s trial would become a singular case in the annals of 20th-century jurisprudence–in Haiti or anywhere else. For the chief witness for the prosecution was none other than the victim himself, Wilfrid. The state argued that the uncommunicative, blank-faced man standing in the courtroom had been positively identified by his parents as their long-dead son, turned into a zombie by his malevolent uncle Belavoix. The actual historical trial itself was rather dull–an open-and-shut case in which neither judge nor jury questioned the state’s presumption of guilt. So author Ducasse, a native Haitian and a medical doctor, gives readers a fictionalized account of the trial as he believes it ought to have proceeded. Using scientific facts and investigative logic as his guides, Belavoix’s hypothetical defense attorney attacks the very heart of traditional Haitian belief in voodoo and zombies. Even today, many educated Haitians accept as fact that hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of zombies roam the countryside or work as mindless plantation laborers. Ducasse outlines the origins of zombie beliefs in African mythology and the historical legacy of slavery, explaining the corrosive effect of the belief in fantasy on Haiti’s economy and politics. The fictionalized elements of this novel soon give way to the author’s ruminations on the meaning of zombie mythology in modern-day Haiti, such that by the end, the book becomes more of a nonfiction treatise than a novel. Nonetheless, readers interested in an unsentimental take on Haitian culture will find these reflections intermittently fascinating.
As an essay, informative; as a novel, occasionally entertaining.