Book review: The Enigma of the Return offers a stunning meditation on exile

Dany Laferrière turns his penetrating gaze on a much-changed Haiti.

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The Enigma of the Return is Dany Laferrière's stunning fictional meditation on exile and his return to a much-changed country.

It begins with a phone call in Montreal, informing Laferrière that his long-lost father is dead. The resulting funeral triggers Laferrière's return to Haiti to reconnect with his family and to revisit a country chafed by circumstance.

Told in a mix of poetry and prose, the book's short chapters function as penetrating vignettes into Haitian society and its people.

From the "men in black" and "women in tears" to "the peasants listening to their transistors" and "hoodlums on motorbikes", Laferrière paints vivid images of a country in flux.

The Enigma of the Return is also Laferrière embarking upon a creative journey, where each piece is itself a form of homecoming.

These insights surrender sage advice to aspiring writers: "What you really need is a good pair of buttocks," Laferrière writes. "It's a job like the seamstress's where you spend a lot of time sitting down."