ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le poète et neuro-linguiste haïtien Jean Métellus est mort
Translated Wednesday 8 January 2014, by
Jean Métellus has left us. Born on April 30th 1937 in Jacmel, Haiti, he emigrated to France in 1959 during the Duvalier dictatorship era. Alongside his work as a neuro-linguist, he undertook numerous literary activities, including that of novelist, poet, playwright and essayist.
Haitian poet and neuro-linguist Jean Métellus dies
Jean Métellus has left us. Born on April 30th 1937 in Jacmel, Haiti, he emigrated to France in 1959 during the Duvalier dictatorship era. Alongside his work as a neuro-linguist, he undertook numerous literary activities, including that of novelist, poet, playwright and essayist. A married father of three, he was a Neurologist in Paris’ Centre Hospitalier Émile Roux, and specialised in speech problems.
Following his studies at High School Pinchinat in Jacmel, Jean Métellus became a teacher of Mathematics at the Lycée Célie Lamour in his hometown, working there between 1957 and 1959. He continued his studies in France, at Paris’ Faculty of Sciencies, followed by studying Medecine at The Faculty of Medecine, also in Paris. A medical doctor by 1970 and Doctor of Linguistics by 1975, he successfully combined these two specialisations, medecine and literature peacefully co-existing, and earning him the respect of intellectual society. He was elected laureate at the Academy of Medecine in 1973, 1976 and 1984, and won literary prizes in 1982, 1984 and 1991. Jean Métellus was also working as a Professor at the College of Medecine for Parisian hospitals.
His oeuvre includes published novels, poems and plays, as well as historical essays and philosophy on Haiti, and around one hundred pieces of writing on problems in language. His first poetry collection, entitled Au pipirite chantant (To the singing Pipirite) attracted both André Malraux and Maurice Nadeau’s attention. Antoine Vitez recognised the theatrical and poetic power of Métellus’ plays in his staging of Anacaona at the Chaillot theatre.
Poem taken from the collection Au pipirite chantant, (published by Les lettres nouvelles, 1995)
La femme noire a un enfant qui la tient en alerte
La femme noire a un enfant et des seins douloureux
C’est une accouchée d’hier
Les douleurs l’ont surprise à la cueillette du café
Là sous le caféier sur la veste de son mari, la tête
contre un palmier,
les pieds plantés dans la terre, elle a poussé
L’eau de la source est pure
La chaleur du corps tendre
Elle reprit son travail avec au sein l’enfant
dans une main, la machette
Le sarclage recommence, la cueillette de plus
belle, la mère engrosse le terre pour pouvoir
donner du lait à son enfant
Jean Métellus debating with Raymond Delerme on the subject of Haiti, part of the programme France Culture
Journalist and Maison de la Poésie NPDC representative Hervé Leroy, remembers two West Indian poets: Aimé Césaire and Jean Métellus.