172 pages
ISBN 1-894800-15-X
DDC C843'.54





Translated by Leonard Sugden
Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Йmile Ollivier (1940–2002) lived in
Quebec as a writer and professor for more than 30 years. Passages, his
fourth novel (which won the $10,000 Grand Prix Littéraire de Montréal
when it was first published, in French, in 1991), captures something of
the hard life of the exile, which can be tolerated only through memory
and the reconstruction of a mythical past rooted in old dreams.

The novel has two narrative threads. One follows Amédée Hosange as he
leads a group of emigrants from the Caribbean village of
Port-а-l’Йcu to seek a new life. The other thread tells the story of
Normand Malavy, a Haitian exile in Quebec who travels to Miami in a
state of ill health. The stories of these two adventurers are narrated
in alternate chapters, culminating in their coming together when
Amédée and his boatload of emigrants are shipwrecked near Florida.

Ollivier’s novel has been described as Homeric, with Amédée and
Normand, like Odysseus, in search of land and home. Leonard Sugden’s
fine translation is seldom obtrusive, and the author’s style is
lyrical, elegiac, and at times epic. Passages is a challenging work of
exile and rootlessness that evokes, through the power of memory and
poetry, a difficult past, a harsh present, and the dreams of a happy


Ollivier, Émile., “Passages,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,