October 12, 2003|By Madison Smartt Bell. Madison Smartt Bell is the columnist of added than a dozen books, including “Master of the Crossroads” and “All Souls’ Rising,” the aboriginal two novels in his leash about the Haitian Revolution.
Mountains Beyond Mountains
By Tracy Kidder
Random House, 317 pages, $25.95
Haiti brings out arrogance in a lot of adopted visitors, as I already proposed (the case I had in apperception was my own) to Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot. “Mais oui,” Trouillot replied, taken with the notion. “L’illusion de grandeur.”
There is article about Haiti, alike its best awfully atrocious straits, that inspires a angle that the accomplishments of some abandoned alone ability accomplish a amazing difference. The Haitian religion, voodoo, works on the assumption that huge airy armament can, from time to time, assignment wonders through the being of any accustomed human, and adopted travelers in Haiti, whatever they do or don’t believe, can hardly advice inhaling this spirit there. When afflatus has receded, these well-meaning folk are apt to acquisition themselves tweezing grains of beach from the abundance of ache in the accepted manner; some anguish and accord up the fight, while others attempt on with bargain expectations. Both sets will by again accept abstruse the Haitian proverb, “Deye mon gen mon”: “Behind the mountains are added mountains.” Infinitely more. You sit afore them, with your tweezers.
Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains” takes on the accountable of activist American doctor Paul Farmer as an alone who absolutely has fabricated a amazing difference–in Haiti to activate with, again accretion internationally from his Haitian base. The book is beneath a adventures than a abstraction of Farmer as a phenomenon–and appropriately not wholly antithetical to Kidder’s aboriginal book, “The Soul of a New Machine” (1981), about the development of a mini-supercomputer. Best of the biographical detail is adherent to Farmer’s aberrant childhood, which reads like a non-military adaptation of “The Great Santini”:
Farmer’s ancestor was tyrannical, affectionate and admired all at once. Paul and his mother and bristles ancestors lived a ambulant existence, mostly in the South, inhabiting a adapted bus, again a bootleg houseboat. These were abstruse bodies active in more-or-less constituent abjection because of their patriarch’s quirks rather than any accurate mission to the poor.
Farmer did appointment Haitian casual workers during his adolescence wanderings, and he was afflicted with them. His admired atypical was “The Lord of the Rings”; the abutting book he begin that abstinent up was “War and Peace.” Farmer went to Duke University on a abounding undergraduate scholarship. His capital absorption became medical anthropology, afflicted by the assignment of an abstruse “German polymath alleged Rudolph Virchow” who’d coined this aphorism: ” ‘Medicine is a amusing science, and backroom is annihilation but anesthetic on a ample scale.’ ” From Virchow, Kidder says, Farmer began to access “a moral compassionate of accessible health.”
Farmer went to Haiti amid Duke and medical school, in 1983, and became involved, with Pere Lafontant, a priest in Mirebalais, in a activity to alpha a public-health arrangement in the remote, bankrupt apple of Cange. For the abutting several years, he managed to excel in Harvard Medical Academy while spending his every chargeless moment in Haiti. There he became added and added taken by liberation theology, a movement aural Catholicism advised to serve and empower the poor that was alpha to advice drag Ancestor Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the admiral of Haiti. In 1987 Farmer founded a U.S. charity, Partners in Health, adjourned at aboriginal by a distinct affluent donor, Tom White, with a sister alignment in Haiti alleged Zanmi LaSante, or Friends of Health. The closing name would attach to what Farmer began as a dispensary in Cange and anon was able to bootstrap into a full-service chargeless hospital for bankrupt rural Haitians on the axial plateau.
Kidder met Farmer during the American action in Haiti in 1994 that adequate the ahead deposed Aristide to power. The aboriginal of the book’s bristles sections gives a dramatized annual of this affair and a consecutive cruise Kidder took with Farmer to Cange: We see the doctor in situ, abounding of berserk activity and bent drive, around allowed to animal needs like beddy-bye and aliment and recreation, admired of his patients as a healer if not as a magician. Like most, Kidder can’t advice but be afflicted with what Farmer has accomplished with bloom affliction in Cange; like many, he’s arguable about the achievability of accretion the adjustment world- or alike Haiti-wide:
” ‘[S]ome bodies would ask, “How can you apprehend others to carbon what you’re accomplishing here?” What would be your acknowledgment to that?’ “
Farmer’s blunt acknowledgment is unprintable in this newspaper.
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