Real-life and Fictional Chronologies: on building a set of timelines around René Depestre’s Hadriana dans tous mes rêves
In this essay I explore the connections between literature and historic documents through a series of digital timelines that I created around the novel Hadriana dans tous mes rêves (1988), by Haitian writer René Depestre. As part of the In All My Dreams book club and art exposition organized by Professors Kaiama L. Glover and Laurent Dubois around Hadriana, my digital project proposes an interactive way for readers to get a sense of the novel by contrasting the events in the book with historical ones. Focusing on the years the novel covers and those when Depestre wrote it, I used the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) archive of the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste and selected a group of news items about Jacmel (the city where the story is set) and Depestre himself to include in my project. I selected the news items looking for content that could help readers imagine the setting of Hadriana. The novel, whose second movement includes an actual newspaper article about Jacmel, is narrated in a fragmented, nonlinear way, but it mentions the dates of major events. However, that nonlinearity made me wonder how to build a timeline that enriches reading of the novel instead of spoiling it. The final product consists of three timelines: the first focuses on the novel; the second includes photos of the news items I selected from Le Nouvelliste and links to the original archive but has no information from the book; and the third combines the first two so readers can compare and contrast both realities. This project shows the possibilities that an archive such as dLOC offers for the reading of literary works such as Depestre’s.
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