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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
At the first rays of dawn, when the dogs abandon their posts and the vagrants their cardboard boxes, the most pointless of prayers ascends into the sky. A plea. God, grant us this day our daily bread…
Translated from French by Danielle McLimore
The Iron Caterpillar
By J. William Cally
Strange phenomena can strike such dread into human hearts that I ask you to believe in the one that knotted the stomach of the young diver named Paolo, who noticed the haze of the tunnel when he was returning…
Translated from French by Paul Curtis Daw
Traces of Our Fathers
By Alain Gordon Gentil
Writer, journalist, and filmmaker Alain Gordon Gentil has recently finished shooting four documentaries that retrace the great Indian, African, French, and Chinese adventure of immigration to the Mauritian…
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner & Antoine Bargel
Diary of an Old Mad Woman
By Umar Timol
I am a cliché. An exotic cliché, indeed, I’ve been living here close to thirty years and like clockwork, I am asked the same questions, the same commentaries. So you come from there,…
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
And as he gazes at her, their soul-child is conceived(Henri Michaux, Life Within the Folds)That day as she finished weaving the few meters that would wind seamlessly around her body, she tied off the…
Translated from French by Jean Anderson
The Crossing toward Hope
By Nassuf Djailani
1997. Day breaks under a raging downpour. It’s raining buckets. Raining screams. Raining mothers’ screams that drown out the thunder of the bullets raining down on their sons. It’s raining…
Translated from French by Nicole Ball & David Ball
Ludwig and I Kill Hitler for No Reason (or, A Berlin Springtime)
By Etgar Keret
“Another piece of pepperoni?” Ludwig offered generously. “Thanks, I'm full.” I patted my stomach. “Full,” Ludwig repeated the word, enchanted. “It's been…
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger
The Sea Horses’ Ball
By Boris Gamaleya
Below the Mipham plane the Himalayan sky. The wind florifies the snow. Fa-fa-mi . . . mi-fa-fa   . . . Shadows gain in luxuriance, tufts of omphalodes and orthosiphon. Don’t stay grounded.…
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner & Antoine Bargel
Wild Daffodils
By Nathacha Appanah
It was only during our first weekend together in the Vosges Mountains that I noticed how in tune we were. Before that, whenever we met I felt as if the city, the noise, and other people were preventing…
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
“Hello?” There was no answer. I put the phone back down. I turned to go back to the kitchen and it rang again. I picked it up, wordlessly this time. Again nothing. As soon as I hung up 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