Roumain, Jacques

Roumain, Jacques


Born June 4, 1907, in Port-au-Prince; died there Aug. 18, 1944. Haitian political figure; writer.

Roumain was of an aristocratic family and was educated in Switzerland, France, England, and Spain. In 1927 he returned to Haiti, where he became a leader in the liberation struggle of the Haitian people against the American occupation (1915–34). His sharp publicistic articles exhorted the people to struggle against the occupiers. He founded the League of Haitian Patriotic Youth, which brought together progressive students, and was elected honorary chairman of the Federation of Youth.

One of the founders of the journal La Revue indigène (1926–27), Roumain was a leading figure in those years in the left wing of the “indigenism” literary movement, which emphasized folk tradition and African Negro elements in national culture. Arrested in 1929 in connection with his writing, Roumain made a speech at the trial against the ruling clique. In the work Schematic Analysis 1932–34 he analyzed the problems besetting Haitian society from a Marxist viewpoint. In 1934 he founded the Haitian Communist Party and became the party’s general secretary. A few months later the party was outlawed, and Roumain was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. After his release, he left for Europe, where he continued to direct the illegal activities of the party. In 1939 he moved to the USA, then to Martinique and Cuba. In 1941 he returned home. Roumain was repeatedly arrested and exiled for revolutionary activities.

Roumain’s early prose—the collections The Prey and the Shadow (1930) and The Marionettes (1931)—concentrated on the plight of the Haitian intelligentsia during the years of occupation. His novella The Enchanted Mountain (1931) presented a tragic picture of a dying countryside. Roumain’s major work was the novel Masters of the Dew, which was translated into many languages; it was the first work to introduce the figure of a socialist revolutionary in the poverty-stricken Haitian countryside, which is realistically depicted. Roumain’s poetry was distinctive and complex, ranging from the passionate, publicis-tic “The Black Wood” and “Dirty Negroes” to the subtle lyricism of his shorter poems. In his mature poetry, a sense of racial solidarity with oppressed Negroes throughout the world was combined with ideas of internationalism and solidarity with the working people of all nations. Roumain was also the author of works on the ethnography of Haiti.


Oeuvres choisies. [Moscow, 1964.] (Introduced by J. S. Alexis.)
In Russian translation:
“Khoziaeva rosy.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1956, no. 1.
“Chernoe derevo, Groza, Gvineia, Griaznye negry.” In the collection Vremia plameneiushchikh derev’ev. [Foreword by E. Gal’perina.] Moscow, 1961.


Genezis sotsialisticheskogo realizma ν literaturakh stran Zapada. Moscow, 1965.
Gal’perina, E. “Zhak Rumen.” In Sovremennaia literatura za rubezhom: Literaturno-kriticheskie stat’i, sb. 2. Moscow, 1966.
Gaillard, R. L’Univers romanesque de J. Roumain. Port-au-Prince [1965].