By Roy Lie.
On 12 December 2013, Dany Laferrière, a sharp-witted novelist, has become the first Quebecer and the first Haitian to be elected as an immortal of the prestigious Académie française. He was elected in the first round of balloting and will assume the second chair of the Académie.
The Académie française was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution, the Académie was restored in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
The goals of the Académie française are to maintain the purity of the French language, publish an official dictionary of the language and promote eloquence in the arts and sciences. The Académie consists of forty members. All are elected for life.
The 40 members of the Académie française are referred to as immortelle. Ofcourse this does not imply they will never die but alludes to the immortality of the French language. Past members include Voltaire, Montesquieu, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas fils, Senegal‘s president Léopold Senghor. Émile Zola never managed to be selected, despite applying many times.
At his induction ceremony Mr Laferrière (F2) will be expected to wear a gold-threaded tailcoat, bicorne hat and sword.
The Haitian city of Port-au-Prince had much to celebrate on 12 December 2013, it was the day Dany Laferrière learned of his election to fauteuil 2 (F2)at the Académie française and, by coincidence,Dany Laferrière was in town to launch the first International Book Fair in Haiti.
Days after his nomination, Dany also paid a surprise visit to his hometown Petit-Goâve in the South. There he shared some of his success and new fame. Petit-Goâve is celebrating its 350th anniversary. Laferrière intends to take Haitian Creole (vocabulary) as well as some of the Quebec vernacular to the Académie française.
How many important people, after being admitted to such a prestigious institution as the Académie française, would wish the world to know about their humble upbringing? Dany Laferrière is proud of his roots and that is what makes his election so special.
In 2010, the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) awarded Dany Laferrière a doctorate for his literary commitment and the remarkable influence of his work in French literature, reflecting cultural diversity and the Quebec of the past 30 years.
When asked what the secret of his success is, Laferrière said, ‘I have no secret. It’s the job and the arrogance to believe that nothing is impossible’.
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and acclaimed author, whose works have been translated into over fifteen languages said ‘my sincere congratulations to Dany for this exceptional recognition by the most prestigious and revered institution of La Francophonie.
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada: ‘The presence of a Canadian in the Académie française will surely help this prestigious institution achieve its objectives’.
Michel Martelly, President of Haiti, is elated and tweeted the news to his plethora of followers:
Haiti Observer (Haitian Creole newspaper), Ekrivin Dany Laferrière Antre Nan Akademi France, Se Gro Zafè Oiu. Mezanmi, me yon examp po montre kapacite Ayisien. Ekrivin Dany Laferrière konyer-a fè pati de gro tet yo nan institisyon sa yo rele nan Lang France :”Académie française” Se pou nou toujou enkourage moun ki ap fe efor, especialman lè ke moun sa soti laky nou.
Dany Laferrière monte Fyerte nou tout Ayisyen.
(Translation by R.L) Author Dany Laferrière joined the important French entity the Académie française. It’s a marvelous demonstration of what we Haitians are capable off. Furthermore, it’s an encouragement to all Haitians who aspire to achieve their dreams. Dany Laferrière, you have made us proud!
Accolades to Canada, Haiti and the Caribbean, for an eminent Caribbean son has been elevated to such an august institution, L’ Académie française.