In this interview novelist Soamiely Andriamananjara tells Abhay K., the guest editor of Global Literature in Libraries Initiative for #MadagascarLitMonth about his collection of short stories “Rough Draft”, why did he write them, how long did it take to write these short stories, surprises he came across while writing them and his favourite Malagasy writers.
Abhay K. – Tell us about your book Rough Draft.
Soamiely Andriamananjara – Rough Draft is a collection of short stories written directly in English. While the stories do not have a central unifying theme, they were all inspired by my personal observations and recollection of different features of the Malagasy society. Each story is centered around a character whom I have come across. I try to capture the character’s demeanor—how he talks, how he behaves, what makes him tick—and take the reader on a journey through various aspects of the society.
Abhay K. – Why did you write this book?
Soamiely Andriamananjara – To be honest, I did not intend to write a book. I always liked writing, but it was more like a hobby. I initially just wrote short stories for my own enjoyment which I posted on soamiely.medium.com. As time went on, I realized that I had a substantial readership. The stories were well-received and a number of readers encouraged me to compile the stories into a printed volume. Rough Draft was self-published, and is available online.
Abhay K. – What were challenges and surprises you came across while writing this book?
Soamiely Andriamananjara – I generally write in Malagasy. The rhythm and style of my stories tend to imitate how the Malagasy commonly speak including popular slang and vernacular. The Malagasy language has a very melodic, almost musical, sound. Writing directly in English was sort of challenging to the extent that I had to adjust the style of the English narrative to mimic the Malagasy sound.
Abhay K. – What would you like the readers to know or appreciate more about this book?
Soamiely Andriamananjara – For each story, the main protagonist (typically a man) tends to be an underdog that has to deal with some degree of injustice or unfairness, commonly encountered by the majority of Malagasy. Most stories follow the journey of the character as he faces such challenges. Such a journey walks the reader through the quotidian of the typical Malagasy.
Abhay K. – What’s your next book project? Can you please tell us more about it?
Soamiely Andriamananjara – I am working on a novel that addresses the challenges facing a Malagasy underdog by highlighting different aspects of the unfairness and the inequality that exist in the Malagasy society.
Abhay K. – Who are your favourite Malagasy writers?
Soamiely Andriamananjara – I like reading the Malagasy classics such as Rabearivelo, Dox, Rado, Clarisse Ratsifandrihamanana, and ED Andriamalala. Among the more recent writers, I enjoy Johary Ravaloson, Hemerson Andrianetrazafy, Mina Ilaron, and Hobiana.
Soamiely Andriamananjara grew up in Madagascar. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and their two kids. He writes in English and in Malagasy on various economic and social issues that are relevant to Madagascar. He is working on a novel about the adventures of an overachieving Malagasy underdog. Some of his writings can be viewed on Medium at @soamiely.
#MadagascarLitMonth is curated by Abhay K.
Abhay K. is the author of nine poetry collections including The Magic of Madagascar (L’Harmattan Paris, 2021), The Alphabets of Latin America (Bloomsbury India, 2020), and the editor of The Book of Bihari Literature (Harper Collins, 2022), The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian Poems, CAPITALS, New Brazilian Poems and The Bloomsbury Book of Great Indian Love Poems. His poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines including Poetry Salzburg Review, Asia Literary Review among others. His ‘Earth Anthem’ has been translated into over 140 languages. He received SAARC Literary Award 2013 and was invited to record his poems at the Library of Congress, Washington DC in 2018. His forthcoming book length poem is titled Monsoon. His translations of Kalidasa’s Meghaduta (Bloomsbury India, 2021) and Ritusamhara (Bloomsbury India, 2021) from Sanskrit, have won KLF Poetry Book of the Year Award 2020-21.