In this interview novelist and short story writer Mose Njo tells Abhay K., the guest editor of Global Literature in Libraries Initiative for #MadagascarLitMonth about his short story Siri mon Amour, Zuckerbook ma Patrie. translated into English by Allison M. Charette, why did he write it, how long did it take to write it, surprises he came across while writing it and his favourite Malagasy writers.
Abhay K.- Tell us about your short story which has been translated into English.
Mose Njo– It’s a short story written in French titled Siri mon Amour, Zuckerbook ma Patrie. Allison Charette has translated it into English. A review in the magazine La Grande Parade said that “The tone is much darker for Siri mon Amour, Zuckerbook ma Patrie, by Mose Njo, which achieves the feat of tackling the subject of social media addiction and the drama of immigration, in the same story. The short story is very well written, full of emotion, you are at the heart of how the character feels throughout the reading. A strong text, which marks the spirits.”
Abhay K.- Why did you write this short story?
Mose Njo– I wrote it in Berlin, back then when I got the chance to learn independent filmmaking there. A fellow writer I met in Abidjan said if I’m interested in submitting a short story in an upcoming anthology he’s involved with. I said, ‘Oh, that’s cool, I’m in’. Then, when I sat down to think about it, I felt something strange, so to speak. Where I came from – Madagascar – the electricity isn’t as abundant as it is in Berlin. I mean there are no power cuts in Berlin. So, I started from there, from that feeling, and I couldn’t help but notice my clumsy addiction to the social media. As a writer, I think it’s wonderful that everyone is now writing and reading more than ever. So it felt natural to start from there and go down that road and write something about it.
Abhay K.- What were the challenges and surprises you came across while writing this short story? How long did it take to complete it?
Mose Njo – Surprisingly, I wrote it like I wrote a poem. Spontaneously, in one shot, and without really thinking about it. Unlike writing a novel, I didn’t outline, I just thought of a few things, a starting point, and I let it flow. The challenge was to get started. I guess I had day-dreamed it weeks before creating it. Without that daydream phase, I would have probably not been able to write it at all.
Abhay K. – What would you like the readers to know or appreciate more about this short story?
Mose Njo -I would like the readers to appreciate the short journey I’m inviting them to read and I would appreciate it if they get to know more about the power cuts we have in Madagascar, but not only in Madagascar but in many places around the world. Moreover, a whole new world, wrongly labeled as virtual, is being created and we seem to be already hooked into it. Perhaps, it would be wise to be concerned about it, at a deeper level.
Abhay K. What’s your next book project? Can you please tell us more about it?
Mose Njo– On the one hand, I would particularly be proud of myself if I’m able to finish as soon as possible the rewriting process of what I hope would be my first novel in French. It’s based on a diary I wrote in Abidjan during the Francophone Game in 2017. Most of it took place in Abidjan, Addis Ababa, and Antananarivo but at the same time, most of it took place in an alternate world superposed to the so-called accepted real world. Three events triggered the writing process, on an emotional level, while I was in Abidjan, a famous singer I liked took his life, a friend I admired died and our passports were taken away from us. I’ve been told that the manuscript is funny, moving, and strange. On the other hand, since I’ve been among the Africa@2050 Climate-Fiction Competition winners – I’m so proud of it – I have that idea to turn the short story I wrote into a whole new novel or a collection of interconnected stories. If ever anyone is interested, of course.
Abhay K. Who are your favourite Malagasy writers?
Mose Njo -My favourite Malagasy writers are ED Andriamalala, as a novelist, and Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, as a diarist. I also take immense joy in reading Raombana and Rakotovao’s 19th century diaries. Maybe I am too prudish to name writers still alive for fear of offending them if I forget some. Nevertheless, I appreciate the short stories of Soamiely Andriamananjara. He writes in Malagasy as well but it’s not just because of that, there’s wit, there’s lucidity, and there’s madness.
Mose Njo is a multilingual writer who lives and works in Madagascar. He has released a novel in Malagasy called Lisy Mianjoria. His short story, written in French, was published in a science fiction anthology called Europunk. It is translated into English, yet not yet published. He was among the winners of the Africa@2050 Climate-Fiction Competition, in English. He has translated plays and poems. He received a scholarship to study independent filmmaking at the Art-on-the-Run school in Berlin. He also exhibits work as a conceptual artist.
#MadagascarLitMonth is guest edited 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.