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Knowing the Unknowable: Writing from Madagascar

December 2015

Malagasy artist Malala Andrialavidrazana's print Tanindrazana / Ancestors’ Land, fine art print...
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. 

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
By Allison M. Charette
Not a single novel from Madagascar, whether written in French or Malagasy, has ever appeared in English.
The Conspiracists
By Naivo
“First and foremost, what proves to me that you are what you say you are?”
Translated from French by Allison M. Charette
Abandoning Myself
By Magali Nirina Marson
Besides, poverty’s not interesting, and I don’t want them to pity me
Translated from French by Allison M. Charette
Wife Sold at Auction
By David Jaomanoro
If you don’t take advantage of the rainy years, you’d better have some jump in your legs in the dry years.
Translated from French by Margaret Besser
By Bao Ralambo
The adults didn’t risk wandering about in broad daylight . . .
Translated from French by Allison M. Charette