"Duvalierville" by Graham Greene (1904-1991)

An excerpt from Greene’s The Comedians (1966). Greene was a renowned American novelist who visited Haiti in the early 1960s. He wrote The Comedians to ridicule the Duvalier dictatorship. While today the novel is very popular, it is controversial because Greene portrays Haiti as a dark, irrational place. At one point in the book, the main character and Mr. Smith, an American politician and prospective investor, travel to Duvalierville (today near Cabaret), where Duvalier planned to build his own Brasilia. Mr. Smith's observations reveal Greene’s opinions about Duvalier.

We drove out next day to Duvalierville, Mr. Smith and I and the Minister with a Tonton Macoute for a driver.

On the flat shoddy plain between the hills and the sea a few white one-room boxes had been constructed, a cement playground, and an immense cockpit which among the small houses looked almost as impressive as the Coliseum. They stood together in a bowl of dust which, when we left the car, whirled around us in the wind of the approaching thunderstorm.

"Is that a Greek theatre?" Mr. Smith asked with interest.

"No. It’s where they kill cocks"

"I don’t see many folk around here."

The Secretary for Social Welfare said proudly, "There were several hundred on this very spot. Living in miserable mud huts. We had to clear the ground. It was quite a major operation."

"Where did they go?"

"I suppose some went into town. Some into the hills. To relatives."

"Will they come back when the city’s built?"

"Oh well, you know, we are planning for a better class of people here."

 Beyond the cockpit there were four houses built with tilted wings like wrecked butterflies; they resembled some of the houses of Brasilia seen through the wrong end of a telescope….

"My views?" Mr. Smith said. "If you want them, you shall have them. I don’t see your Duvalierville being exactly a centre of progress. It’s too remote."

"You would prefer a site in the capital?"

 "I’m beginning to reconsider the whole project," Mr. Smith said in a voice so final that even the Minister relapsed into uneasy silence.