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May 2012

Writing from the Indian Ocean

This month we spotlight writing from the islands of Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, and Mayotte.  Francophone writing in the region dates back to the eighteenth century; the coexistence of French with the area's other languages (Creole, Malagasy, Arabic, and Hindi), and its relationship to French colonialism, inflect writers' thematic, stylistic, and syntactic choices.  See how J. William Cally, Ananda Devi, Nassuf Djailani, Michel Ducasse, Boris Gamaleya, Alain Gordon-Gentil, Carpanin Marimoutou and Françoise Vergès, Esther Nirina, Barlen Pyamootoo, Jean-Luc Raharimanana, and Umar Timol imaginatively engage with this complex heritage. We thank our guest editor, Françoise Lionnet, for assembling this fine collection. Elsewhere, Mauritian writer Nathacha Appanah joins Etgar Keret and Wojciech Jagielski in writing from cities not their own. And we deliver the third installment of Sakumi Tamaya's “Hole in the Garden.”

Insularity, Mobility, and Imagination: Writing from the Indian Ocean
By Françoise Lionnet
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,”…
Center of Flacq
By Barlen Pyamootoo
Flacq during the day is nothing more than a vast market; buy, sell, pound the pavements, work the sidewalks.
Translated from French by Danielle McLimore
The Iron Caterpillar
By J. William Cally
He had the sense of a giant creature slithering within the tunnel.
Translated from French by Paul Curtis Daw
Traces of Our Fathers
By Alain Gordon Gentil
The prairies of Brittany have sugarcane in their memory.
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner & Antoine Bargel
Diary of an Old Mad Woman
By Umar Timol
So you come from there, it must be so beautiful so wonderful; why do you live here when your island is so lovely.
Translated from French by Joyce Fortuné-Pope
Isle Say Blood
By Michel Ducasse
our fragmented history written with a large axe told by the bordertracers slaves of their prejudice   our marooned history chained by hatred whitewashed memory, creole coolie color anger pain dockers…
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner & Antoine Bargel
Weaving Dreams
By Ananda Devi
She answered, listening to the detailed instructions of the fabric against her skin.
Translated from French by Jean Anderson
The Crossing toward Hope
By Nassuf Djailani
It’s raining bullets over Mutsamudu.
Translated from French by Nicole Ball & David Ball
Ludwig and I Kill Hitler for No Reason (or, A Berlin Springtime)
By Etgar Keret
“Adolf, it's you, I didn't recognize you at first without the ridiculous mustache.”
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger
The Sea Horses’ Ball
By Boris Gamaleya
The plane crashes . . . on the island of troubling roosters.
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner & Antoine Bargel
Wild Daffodils
By Nathacha Appanah
Slowly, as we made our way up to the village, the air became crystal clear, rid itself of the city’s impurities, and we, too, shed our masks.
Translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan
Moorings: Indo-oceanic Creolizations
By Françoise Vergès & Carpanin Marimoutou
Moorings (amarres in French), in Reunion Island Creole a profoundly polysemous term, also means   link, ties, enchanted, bewitched, to be in love, to be enraptured, to be bonded, to care (amar lë…
Translated from French by David Ball & Nicole Ball
The Hole in the Garden, Part III
By Sakumi Tayama
“You expect me to believe you dug a hole just for the fun of it?”
Translated from Japanese by Mark Gibeau
By Wojciech Jagielski
I liked Peshawar. I preferred it to hot, racing Rawalpindi, or grand, haughty Islamabad. I think I preferred it to any other city in the world. Indolent in the autumn sun, it was the perfect place for…
Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
By Jean-Luc Raharimanana
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…
Translated from French by Antoine Bargel & Alexis Pernsteiner
By Jean-Luc Raharimanana
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,…
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner & Antoine Bargel
But Your Eyes
By Esther Nirina
But your eyes heard The brilliance of the laughter Residing in the pale bone Of our faces Your pupils will read The thread woven by time’s Imprint Upon the brow of the present With the red note…
Translated from French by Alison Anderson