In this interview Malagasy short story writer and novelist Mialy Andriamananjara tells Abhay K., the guest editor of Global Literature in Libraries Initiative for #MadagascarLitMonth about her short story Dreams, Miracles and Jazz published in An Anthology for African Writers, why does she write in English, and her favourite Malagasy writers.
Abhay K.- Tell us about your published works.
Mialy Andriamananjara – I wrote short stories in English and they were published in an anthology for African writers, Dreams, Miracles and Jazz, edited by Helon Habila and Kadija George, plus a few stories that Kadija George also published in Sable magazine.
Abhay K. -Why did you choose to write in English and what are your short stories about?
Mialy Andriamananjara – For a long time I was struggling trying to decide which language I wanted to prioritize. I would write in English, in French and in Malagasy. My stories at the time were mostly about the immigrant dilemma of staying in their adopted country or returning to the ancestors’ land. In “The Promised Land”, the daughter has inherited the parents’ desire to go back home, only the home she returns to is not recognizable to the parents anymore and the parents acknowledge this at the end of the story. In “The Shred”, the protagonist loses her mind trying to hang on to the shred of “lamba” or shroud that most of us are gifted with when we leave Madagascar. It is a piece of shroud enrobing the red soil of the ancestral tomb we carry upon us as a way to remind us of where we came from and where we will be returning to.
I wrote these stories as a way to work out my own predicament. To return home, to stay abroad, to face and embrace one’s transformations.
Abhay K.- What were challenges and surprises you came across while writing in English?
Mialy Andriamananjara -The challenges were to see if I could find my own voice while writing in English and to see if I could recognize and sympathize with the protagonists. The protagonists were certainly more foreign to me, in the way that I was expressing their stories but in a way, this was not surprising, because I was explicitly writing for a non-Malagasy audience. I wrote the stories really fast, as they were already living in my head most of the time, and did not require much to be expressed out.
Abhay K.- What would you like the readers to know or appreciate more about your stories?
Mialy Andriamananjara -To read with an open mind! The Malagasy psyche is convoluted and we are mostly verbally inclined, and written literature does not really capture the richness of our literature. Capturing the rhythm, the verbal dances and parries of Malagasy language in a foreign language, be it French or English, is a challenge that most of us Malagasy writers are embracing and tackling with much gusto, with differing degrees of success.
Abhay K. – What’s your next book project? Can you please tell us more about it?
Mialy Andriamananjara -I am working on a full length novel, in French, about the peregrinations of a not so young woman, the trajectory of her immigrant life, from Madagascar to America. She returns home after her mother’s death with the intent to settle down, to give back, but things (and people…) have changed. The novel is about love, loss, family and identity and the never ending quest for home.
Abhay K. Who are your favourite Malagasy writers?
Mialy Andriamananjara – Clarisse Ratsifandrihamanana, Andry Andraina and Michele Rakotoson.
Mialy Andriamananjara is a writer and publisher from Madagascar, currently based in Washington D.C. She writes in three languages-Malagasy, French and English. Her short stories have been published by Sable London and Picador Africa.
Abhay K. is the guest editor for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative’s #MadagascarLitMonth:
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.