Feel The Magic of Madagascar

Book Review

La Magie de Madagascar | The Magic of Madagascar by Abhay K.

Bilingual edition, Translated into French by Prof. Madhuri Mukherjee and Katia Novet Saint-Lôt,

Éditions L’Harmattan, Paris, 2021, Pages. 144

ISBN: 978-2343235929

By Arefa Tehsin

Much before Madagascar was made famous by, well, “Madagascar”, my naturalist father had told me about the tragedy of the biggest bird that ever walked our planet – the elephant bird, which went extinct in the 17th century due to human activity. He told me tales of the exotic lifeforms that existed on that island from the lemurs that sang like whales to the aye-ayes with their big toes and wonderstruck eyes. Abhay K’s ‘The Magic of Madagascar’ took me back to the childhood pictures painted of a surreal isle by my dad.

The first thing that struck me about the Haiku was that it is very visual.

frangipani flowers

on the ground

fallen galaxies

It follows the rhythms of life and seasons and conjures images that seem paradisiacal to a nature lover’s heart. It bubbles with content that can come only by living in the midst of nature and letting it become an extension of your subconscious.

sings incessantly

even in dreams

Malagasy Coucal

Nature, that’s mostly of the endemic variety there – from baobabs to aye-ayes to Indri Indri. The poems are accessible and quotable, burgeoning out of love and longing and the patience to observe.

having engulfed the fishermen

the sea waves

crave the moon

The verse grows layers and gains depth towards the end of the book.

flowers offered to the ocean

come back to the beach


The Haiku of “Magic in Madagascar” in its entirety delves into the precious, and often ignored, relationship of humans with nature, the only one that can truly satiate our hunger. Our connection with the natural world (from our first gasp of breath to the last), although it may lurk at the threshold of our consciousness, is the umbilical cord that cannot be severed by all the conveniences and dazzles of the manmade world. If you’re ready to hear the voice of the wild, it is forthcoming and generous  enough to share all its beauty and creation, without reserve.  

Abhay’s poems don’t shy away from hitting it hard and invoking the spectres that make us halt and think of our impact as a race on the planet.

eggshell fragments

on windswept dunes

once Elephant birds

The Homo sapiens of the magic island find an honourable (but small) mention towards the end in the ‘People’ section of the poetry collection.

Abhay’s words, meditative in their musings, are intercepted by illustrations that breathe life into the landscapes and heartscapes. The strokes of black and grey—whether it is of a hoopoe feeding its demanding chick or a baobab standing with resolve, infusing in us a sense of stillness—give form to imagination.

on the verge of extinction

an indifferent world

While the imagery of The Magic of Madagascar is romantic, the message of conservation is tacit. This is what we have. And this is what we can lose.


 Arefa Tehsin grew up treading jungles with her naturalist father. Ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur. She’s the author of several fiction and non-fiction books and a columnist in newspapers & magazines. Her book The Elephant Bird has been translated in more than 35 languages. Her latest book: Steed of the Jungle God and The Chirmi Chasers. www.arefatehsin.com

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