The Emperor

Original title: L’Empereur

Author: Orcel, Makenzy

Publication Date:

March 2021



Original language and publisher

French | Payot & Rivages

Territories Handled

Netherlands, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction

The Emperor

Original title: L’Empereur

Author: Orcel, Makenzy


“The tale of this zombie-slave existence is told in a magnificent voice, steeped in violence, that expresses both its hatred and its liberation.” — Libération

A sensitive chronicle of a double exile, both national and personal. The portrait of a woman who is uneasy at any latitude, and who seeks asylum in literature.

In the hovel where he lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, echoing with the voices and shouts of his neighbors, the narrator waits, surrounded by proof of his guilt. He killed his boss, and his own past at the same time. That past still echoes in him like in a drum. Abandoned by his parents, he was raised in a lakou run by the iron-fisted Emperor, a vodou master who turned him into a sheep, a zombie, a nobody.

To escape annihilation, he hopped on a bus to Port-au-Prince, where he yielded to the charms of a lovely reader, who vanished almost immediately. Delivering newspapers that he cannot read, he winds up running into her again by chance, at the end of one of his alienating prowls through the sleepy city. Holding her in his arms means holding the hope for a different life, one in a world of beauty and words. But she soon disappears again, for good this time, like a dream that can’t be remembered. In the narrator’s damaged mind that is slipping towards madness, his oppressors’ silhouettes become blurred together, and his boss and the Emperor form a single body to be sacrificed on the altar of his newfound freedom.

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