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Articles tagged "Madagascar"

Knowing the Unknowable: Writing from Madagascar

Welcome to the Madagascar issue. The description is a little general; please do excuse us. It’s just that any adjective would be superfluous when you’re essentially introducing a country’s literature in English translation. Not a single novel from Madagascar, whether written in French or Malagasy, has ever appeared in English. There are a wealth of novels (and all other forms of literature) to choose from, though, written by dozens of critically acclaimed and prize-winning...

Abandoning Myself

Burning, the needle that gently scrapes my skin, that doesn’t press very deep, that moves along slowly, that skims my flesh beneath the surface, that injects black ink blood between the two layers. Gaël crouches over my thigh. His left hand stretches and holds the skin. The other draws with the strange machine. Piercing, its sound—it reminds me of the dentist’s drill. Its tiny needle makes me think about the one in the sewing machine where Neny Kely rips open her...

The Conspiracists

One day, an uncle of mine called Alphonse sent me to get advice from his childhood friend who’d become a policeman. The friend’s name was Anatole Rabe. He’d steadily climbed the steps of the National Police hierarchy, my uncle said, and now found himself near the top. Alphonse and Anatole had first met when they were still in short pants and both had enthusiastically donned the thankless uniform of civil servitude—but that was at a simpler time when the...

Nenitou

Crayfish leap backward in huge bounds, which I loved. But later, I’d find their own excrement in their heads.   Lord Rat washes his face, he is bald. Lady Mouse trills, she is toothless.   Once upon a time, I was a little girl. I lived in the country. Then, Nenitou came. Nenitou is my mother-sister. She took me with her. She made me leave the country. I was going to go to school. I was going to have beautiful dresses. Clean ones. I was going to watch...

Blastomycosis

Before starting his nightly route, Lemizo patted himself down to make sure that he had all the tools of his trade. On his left shoulder: a scrap paper bag glued around a large, empty, white metal container without a lid. On his right: two large sacks dangling down, one for different kinds of glass bottles, the other for scrap plastic. Around his waist: a large belt made from a tightly rolled swath of fabric, to hold any handled objects that could be reused. He also had his pointed metal...

Auntie’s Eggs

Tragedy has struck the Rambahy house: Ikalamainty, the black chicken, has just joined her ancestors on Mount Ambondrombe. Her demise brings great sorrow: a steady source of income for the household has disappeared. And worse, the poor thing was brooding at the moment of passing, so this morning, Rambahy’s wife is brooding over the orphan-eggs. Her husband looks on, powerless to console her. “What are we going to do with these eggs now?” she asks, worried and sad....

Wife Sold at Auction

On this morning, the old musician stops playing the moment I bend my lanky bag of bones and squeeze through the tiny doorframe of his home. I’ve stopped greeting him, at least while he’s playing, so as not to frighten away, like birdsong, the music my ears drink in from the street. But today, he breaks off. A long silence settles in while Marvane—that’s what I call him—aligns and adjusts the chunks of calabash gourd under the strings of his instrument. His...

One Times Two

Hamban-Joky and Hamban-Jandry were twin brothers, unusually identical brothers. They looked the same and acted the same. Their mother, Velonaina, mixed them up. Their father, Tsiahoana, couldn’t tell them apart. No one in the village knew one from the other. Only they recognized one another, only they knew which one was which. For Hamban-Jandry had been the first to see the light of day. And thus he was Zandry, his parents’ youngest child.  Hamban-Joky was the one charged...

Malagasy


Insularity, Mobility, and Imagination: Writing from the Indian Ocean

In early March 2011, two news items about Mauritius landed in my inbox almost simultaneously: one, a glowing article in the U. S. news magazine Slate, titled “The Greatest Country on Earth,” and the other, a denunciation of greed and environmental damage on the coast of the island, published in the Mauritian daily L’Express. In the first article, Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate in economics and professor at Columbia University in New York, rightfully sings the...

Famine

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...

Kratos

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,...

Delphine’s Illness

I don’t go often. Don’t stay long. Each time I tell myself it’s the last. I was heading toward the gate, when a large tombstone caught my eye. It was a recent one, from this year: Delphine H., born Handshoewerckerten. I thought back on what the man from the funeral home had said: you want gold-plated lettering for the engraving? It’s twenty euros a letter.” He plugged the numbers into his calculator. “I won’t count the comma.” A...

Travels with My Aunt

If I had to choose a few words to sum up the trip it wouldn't be one phrase, but several, shouted loudly in my aunt Adelina's dry, shrill voice: "Stop! Stop! Will you stop once and for all! What's wrong with this imbecile, darling? Stooooop!" I am "darling," her nephew, whom she invited to join her on a voyage through Madagascar, whether I wanted to or not. The one she's calling an imbecile is Tsiery, our Madagascan driver. Over the course of fifteen days the three of...

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