The Immortals

By Makenzy Orcel
Translated by Nathan H. Dize

Subjects: Fiction, Caribbean Studies, French Studies, Gender Studies
Series: SUNY series, Afro-Latinx Futures
Paperback : 9781438480565, 132 pages, November 2020

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The Immortals


About the Author

Translation of the award-winning debut novel by Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel about the lives of prostitutes in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, amid the 2010 earthquake.


The Immortals is set in an infamous neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, on Grand-Rue, where many women, young and old, trade in flesh, sex, and desire. We learn, in glimpses and fragments, about the lives of women who fall in love with the moving images of television, the romance of a novel, and the dreams of escape. This moving novel asks, What becomes of these women, their lives, their stories, their desires, and their whims when a violent earthquake brings the capital city and its brothels to their knees?

To preserve the memory of women she lived and worked with, the anonymous narrator makes a deal with her client once she discovers that he is a writer: sex in exchange for recording the stories of the friends who were buried beneath the rubble. She tells the stories of women who were friends, lovers, daughters, and mothers—all while their profession sought to hide any trace of intimacy or interiority through pseudonyms and artifice. Ultimately the book reveals how a group of women sought to make a name for themselves in life, demanding that they not be forgotten in death.

Winner of France's 2012 Prix Thyde Monnier de la Société des Gens de Lettres, The Immortals is the first work of fiction by the celebrated Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel. Mingling poetry and prose, Orcel centers stories that too often go untold, while reflecting on the power and limits of storytelling in the face of catastrophe.

Nathan H. Dize is pursuing his PhD in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University.


"…a moving memorial to a diverse cast of women, whose hopes, desires, needs, and wishes are no longer silenced." — New West Indian Guide

"…a moving, poetic image of Port-au-Prince's brothel-lined Grand Rue. This pared-down, evocative story reverberates with the pain of women struggling to find escape from their constrained lives." — Publishers Weekly

"By translating Les Immortelles into English, Dize cultivates not only the visibility of marginal bodies and voices, in particular those who have disappeared in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, but also that of debut writers whose imaginaries can travel across languages and cultures through the mindful intervention of the translator." — Reading in Translation

"Makenzy Orcel's gut-punch of a novel renders the complex lives of a chorus of Haitian women who desire nothing so much as to be heard, generously offering a window onto Haiti's recent experience of so-called natural disaster. Heartbreaking and defiant in equal measure, Orcel's novel tells the stories of Haiti's most marginal without sensationalism or sentimentality. Its publication in English, in a translation that so well transmits the urgency and depth of Orcel's prose, is a gift Anglophone readers would do well to pick up and open immediately." — Kaiama L. Glover, author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon

"The novel The Immortals is proof that misfortune does not always have the final say, even after a terrible earthquake. Shakira and all the novel's characters thumb their nose in the face of misfortune and stand tall and fierce amidst the storm—to our great fortune." — Yanick Lahens, author of Moonbath