Le Nouveliste | Dany Laferrière and the debt of freedom: small mistakes of temporality

In a short video by Dany Laferrière spreading on Tik Tok and other platforms, the writer said “there is no debt to independence”. It was on the program Internationales on TV5Monde, on May 24, 2015, four days before his entry under the dome of the French Academy. The people who spread the video are not watching the show in its entirety, otherwise they will understand, without prediction, the meaning of this sentence. They miss the essential in the speech of the current Haitian writer who is the most famous in the world. In other words, they do not understand the temporality of the subject. So a mistake in understanding and interpretation.

Q&A: TV5Monde set

TV5 MONDE: In view of the situation in Haiti, are there still international responsibilities? I want to talk about debt. You know when the Head of State of France, Mr. François Hollande, went there, a few years ago, he said he would pay the debt before rectifying the moral debt. What was your reaction?

Dany Laferrière: First of all, I’m not discussing conversations between heads of state. I don’t take it too seriously. The Haitian Head of State, Head of State of France, who is meeting, makes speeches. What’s interesting, I prefer to hear ministers passing by and coming in with documents, with files and talking between ministers to see what’s going on. Even lower, the department heads, even better. When we talk about debt, freedom, compensation or extremely powerful and massive things like that, I like to hear discussions from a battery of lawyers, accountants, tax experts and there, I start to take it seriously. But not public speeches that people need to hear. The phrase often said, “the debt of freedom”, is a misrepresentation. He is not here. There is no debt to independence because Haitian independence was achieved in an unparalleled, difficult way. There was a colonial war and Haiti chased the Napoleonic army out of Haitian territory. Decades later, Charles X, who wanted to negotiate something to get paid, manipulated the global political scene, Haiti could not enter international trade if he did not pay for it, forcing the poor young republic to pay (not this debt) a reparation, which is an invention of the settler, the ruler, the master. To me, they are two completely different things. Freedom does not have to go with that. It forces the hand weaker. Haiti, which wants to join the concert of countries, wants to sell, has agreed to pay for this reparation, but it seems we would have avoided it if Haitian diplomacy had talked more seriously, more strongly on this issue. .

TV5Monde: But at the end of the day, should Haiti expect to be paid, in quotes, for this debt?

Dany Laferrière: I told you that this discussion should take place before a battery of lawyers, tax experts, accountants and take place between, for example, governments and heads of state.

Two different timelines

When France demanded ransom or reparation from Haiti after its independence, which the French called “the debt”, there was no debt, Dany Laferrière said. This business in debt, he continues, is an invention of the settler, the leader, the master. He recalled passing on the conditions under which Haiti gained its independence. In his statement, Dany attacked the formulation of Charles X’s request to Boyer. He mocks the word “debt” which is literally interpreted as “money owed by one person (owed) to another (creditor). By subjecting Haitians to captivity and forced labor, the French were not indebted to Haitians. In this sense, Dany added, in the background, that this debt issue is nonsense, not only in the request of the French citizens for reparation, but also in the words that support this request: ” the debt “.. There is no debt on independence, he added. When he speaks like this, he is not talking about the money that Haiti paid to France. He is not saying that the return of this money is nonsense and it does not exist. No. .He mentions here the place of the first temporality, the request for reparation by the former colonists and the formulation of this request.In this temporality, which is associated with the recognition of sob era of Haiti, the money in question has not yet been paid.

The “Debt of independence” formula, which was nonsensical at first, would take full meaning when the Haitians agreed to pay the amount demanded by France. Hence the second temporal where there is indeed a “debt to freedom”. In this temporality, when we say “debt” and when we ask ourselves the question “who owes to whom?” Well, the answer is that France owes Haiti, the money for this “freedom debt” that was forcibly paid here between 1825 and 1883.

At the time of the French request, there was no debt, as Haiti had no debt to France. No money or whatever. This amount (debt), which is not due, is an invention, defined by Dany (first temporality). But, when Haiti has already paid 150 million (one hundred and fifty million gold francs), the French invention is transformed into its physical equivalent and becomes real, tangible (second temporality). This is the second temporality (the amount paid) that Haitians say. about when they talk about the debt of liberty, but not about Charles X’s historical fiction of the first temporality, which is about the request mentioned by Dany, where there is, in fact, no debt of liberty. People confuse the two temporalities. , the one in historical fiction that Dany is referring to and the reality of sum paid that we are talking about today. There is confusion in the area. on the one hand, Dany is about historical fiction, where there is no debt, on the other hand, people talk about paying the amount demanded, where the debt is real and where (the payment) they are asking for restitution For this compensation, Dany Laferrière told us he commented it would begin to take it seriously when a battery of lawyers, accountants and tax experts was formed.

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