View this article only in English | French

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



From my face made puffy by the swelling of centuries my shithead laughter, I gaze at you from my manure where negro death unfolds in mass, crater bodies in rotten piles, pink abscess on vagina in bloom, smooth penis, stuck inert in the still pulsating throat of the latest cut-carved
On my pile,
Let there now be modernity,
Let there now be prosperity,
Let there now be liberty, I perish humus by my flesh

You may now develop, emerge, grow, increase, consume, see, you are
progressing, prospering, shining, dêmokratia, land of human gods
Now chant.
Power of the people over the negro death
From the depths of the hold, dêmos
From the depths of the plantation, dêmos,
From the depths of the colony, dêmos,
From the depths of independence, scraping in the dregs of republics, republic of Negroes, independence my dear, dêmos,
And scrape the power
And scrape abundance,
The hemp of modernity
Luxury and profusion to intoxicate the nations.
©  Jean-Luc Raharimanana. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Antoine Bargel and Alexis Pernsteiner. All rights reserved.

De ma face boursoufflée des enflures des siècles mon rire enfoiré, je vous contemple de mon fumier où la mort nègre se déroule en masse, corps cratères en tas pourris, abcès roses sur vagin en fleurs, verge lisse, inerte plantée dans la gorge trépidante encore du dernier coupé-découpé
Sur mon tas,
Que soit maintenant la modernité,
Que soit maintenant la prospérité,
Que soit maintenant la liberté, je crève humus par ma chair
Vous pouvez maintenant vous développer, émerger, pousser, grandir, consommer, voyez, vous
progressez, prospérez, resplendissez, dêmokratia, terre des dieux humains
Scandez maintenant.
Puissance du peuple sur la mort nègre
Du fond de la cale,  dêmos
Du fond de la plantation, dêmos,
Du fond de la colonie, dêmos,
Du fond de l’indépendance, à racler dans les bas-fonds des républiques, républiques des nègres, indépendance mon cher, dêmos,
Et racle la puissance
Et racle l’abondance,
Le chanvre de la modernité
Le luxe et la profusion pour enivrer les nations.

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 Alexis PernsteinerAlexis Pernsteiner and by Antoine BargelAntoine Bargel

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).

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.