Friday, May 14, 2010

Timely, Indeed.

Here's an interesting review of Isabel Allende's new novel, Island Beneath the Sea, which takes place in the French colony that was to become Haiti. Allende's apparently worked in some interesting discussions of Voodoo.

The slave Tété . . .dreams of the island beneath the sea, a paradise where "rhythm is born … it shakes the earth, it cuts through me like a lightning bolt and rises toward the sky, carrying with it my sorrows so that [voodoo god] Papa Bondye can chew them, swallow them, and leave me clean and happy."

Tété, in short, dreams of freedom.

According to the reviewer: Particularly enjoyable are scenes in which the religion of the slaves — a form of voodoo originating in Haiti — mixes with the Catholicism of New Orleans. Tété, who becomes a kind of healer, helps the wife of the plantation manager, an Irish Catholic immigrant, care for a slave they fear is about to die in childbirth. " 'Erzulie, mother loa, help it be born,' Tété prayed aloud [to the voodoo goddess]. 'Saint Raymond Nonatus, pay attention, do not let an African saint get ahead of you,' Leanne answered in the same tone, and they both burst out laughing."

Even Père Antoine, the priest known as the Saint of New Orleans, does not seem to object to this intermingling of faith. In one scene, in which Tété is helping the good father in treacherous conditions, Tété calls out to the Goddess Erzulie, asking her to watch over them in their efforts. "Jesus watches over us, Tété," the priest assures her when he hears her pleas. "And if his attention wanders, mon père?" she asks.

Dear Los Angeles Times, since you capitalize the names of other religions, ("Catholicism," for instance, in the very same sentence) you should capitalize "Voodoo." The fact that it's "the religion of slaves" doesn't give you a pass. This is not complicated. Please make a note.

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