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December 2015

Knowing the Unknowable: Writing from Madagascar

Image: Malala Andrialavidrazana, Tanindrazana / Ancestors’ Land, TSN2131, 2005; Fine art print on Hahnemühle Paper 42 x 42 cm

This month we present fiction from Madagascar. Very little of this country's wealth of literature has been translated into English, and the selection here, grounded in the oral tradition and steeped in the rich and diverse heritage of this island nation, suggests we've been missing out on an extraordinary literary culture. Iharilanto Patrick Andriamangatiana and David Jaomanoro pen modern fables. Magali Nirina Marson paints a searing portrait of a teen losing and reclaiming her identity. In two looks at economic injustice, Bao Ralambo sees class struggles clean out a slum, while Charlotte-Arrisoa Rafenomanjato sees a family's history written in blood. Cyprienne Toazara doubles down in a village tale of love and war. Naivo reveals paranoia as the flip side of bureaucracy. And in our first translation from Malagasy, Andry Andraina documents the aftermath of World War II. We thank our guest editor, Allison M. Charette. Also this month, Katrine Øgaard Jensen introduces a selection of Danish poetry.

We thank the Mission Culturelle et Universitaire Française aux Etats Unis, a department of the French Embassy in the United States, for its generous support of this issue.


Knowing the Unknowable: Writing from Madagascar

Not a single novel from Madagascar, whether written in French or Malagasy, has ever appeared in English.

The Conspiracists

"First and foremost, what proves to me that you are what you say you are?"

Abandoning Myself

Besides, poverty’s not interesting, and I don’t want them to pity me


Wife Sold at Auction

If you don’t take advantage of the rainy years, you’d better have some jump in your legs in the dry years.


The adults didn’t risk wandering about in broad daylight . . .

Auntie’s Eggs

It’s a well-known fact that rhyming jingles attract customers.

Omeo Zamako

Lehilahy tells his son that he must work harder in order to succeed, that knowledge is not easily attained.

from “The Lamenting Land”

We made God wait his turn, because we wanted to eat meat.


Story, story. If there is a falsehood in my tale, it is not I who has lied to you.

One Times Two

In the house on the hill, a bright, spacious room was waiting for a cradle.


Book Reviews

Daniel Sada’s “One Out of Two”

Daniel Sada’s One Out of Two is a sleeper agent of a book. . . . a brilliant, and welcome, act of literary sabotage.

Wolfgang Hilbig’s “The Sleep of the Righteous”

Reviewed by Dustin Illingworth

In prose that flashes like black fire, a seething hush gathering in pockets of remarkable beauty, Hilbig circles a renewal that outstrips both the ravages of history and the ruins of the present. That regeneration, he seems to suggest, belongs to literature.

Liu Xia’s “Empty Chairs”

Reviewed by Lizzie Tribone

Liu’s collection resides in a place of isolation, a place brimming with shadows, specters, and half-issued words.

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