View this article only in English | French

Poetry From the May 2012 issue: Writing from the Indian Ocean



Frogs invariably proliferate in a flood. My countries, crass latitudes and borders of hell, often encounter these blessed times. Winds and rains. Frogs. Toads. Pelobates and other pelodytes. Inflated rice paddies and the unmistakable stench of excavated death. Excavated lifted battered returned. The plague prowls and help is standing by to fill a few wallets. The world’s tears make good neighbors. Definite solidarity, international s’il-vous-plaît, on the silt of humanitarian empathy. The cross is red, the cross to bear. Time is food. But I know too well that none is more delicious than the amphibian popultry that infests my shitty lands. This frog, I chow it down without my tears of rage and shame, I chow it down over my disasters and my death as a digestive. The gecko got it right, he who is careful not to get involved in the triumph of these modern and croaking beasts.

©  Jean-Luc Raharimanana. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Antoine Bargel and Alexis Pernsteiner. All rights reserved.

Inéluctablement les grenouilles prolifèrent dans toute inondation. Mes pays, latitudes crasses et bordures d’enfer, souvent connaissent de ces instants bénis. Vents et pluies. Grenouilles. Crapauds. Pélobates ou autres pélodytes. Les rizières gonflées et la puanteur reconnaissable de la mort fouillée. Fouillée soulevée battue revenue. La peste rode et les aides sont proches pour garnir les poches. Le monde pleure et les vaches seront bien gardées. Solidarité certaine, internationale please, sur le limon de l’empathie humanitaire. La croix est rouge, la croix et la bannière. Les temps sont alimentaires. Mais je sais bien qu’il n’y a de plus savoureuse que la populaille batracienne infestant mes terres de merde. La grenouille, je la bouffe sans mes larmes de rage et de honte, je la bouffe sur mes sinistres et ma mort en digestif. Le gecko l’a bien compris, lui qui se garde bien de se mêler au triomphe de ces bêtes modernes et croassant.

Jean-Luc RaharimananaJean-Luc Raharimanana

Jean-Luc Raharimanana was born in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, in 1967. By 1987 he had already been awarded the Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo Poetry Prize for his early poems. Two years later he completed a degree in Literature at the university in his native city and joined a theatre group for which he wrote his first play, Le Prophète et le Président (1989; t: The prophet and the president). The piece was awarded the Tchicaya-U'Tamsi Prize by the Inter-African theatre competition, but actual performance was forbidden by Madagascar's governmental authorities. He published a collection of short stories, Le lépreux, in 1992. The author then went to Paris on a grant from the French foreign radio and studied at the Sorbonne and the Institut National des langues et civilisations orientales. After completing his studies he worked as a journalist and French teacher. Raharimanana's stories are marked by a rich tension between style and content. Through lyrical, sensuous language influenced by oral tradition, the author portrays not only the beauty of nature but poverty and squalor, especially of the shanty towns. In his work legends and old superstitions are juxtaposed with contemporary political events. He received the Grand Prix Littéraire for his short-story collection Rêves sous le linceul (1998). His first novel, Nour, 1947, was published in 2001. His work has been translated into German, English, Italian and Spanish. He lives in Paris.

Translated from FrenchFrench by Antoine BargelAntoine Bargel and by Alexis PernsteinerAlexis Pernsteiner

Antoine Bargel believes poetry is best translated as a duo, one poet/translator from each of the two languages involved. He has published two books of poetry (Silences and Le sexe peint), written a dissertation on bilingual (Spanish/French) author Jorge Semprun, and currently works as a translator and editor for the French press Aux Forges de Vulcain.

Alexis Pernsteiner is a literary and academic translator. Recent publications include Hotelles by Emma Mars (an erotic novel set in Paris, the City of Love) and The Invention of Race: Popular and Scientific Representations (edited by Nicolas Bancel, Thomas David, and Dominic Thomas).