#MadagascarLitMonth: Summing Up A Magical Literary Trip

It has been a great pleasure and opportunity for me to be the guest editor for Madagascar Literature Month in December 2021. First of all, it was a pleasure to connect with so many talented Malagasy writers, poets, translators and publishers, to interview them, to read their works and to learn from them about this unique country in the Indian Ocean which is a true bridge, in all respects, between Asia and Africa. I have learned more about Madagascar’s culture and literature during the past one month than during the past 33 months living and working in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital since March 2019. Guest-editing Madagascar Literature Month, I learned from Malagasy novelist Johary Ravaloson about the work of Malagasy priest and writer Dama-Ntsoha who published a book titled The Etymological Dictionary of the Malagasy Language (Dictionnaire Etymologique De La Langue Malagache) First Part : Words derived from the Sanskrit , published in 1951 by Libraire Mixte. It documents over 300 words in Malagasy language from Sanskrit. This was a delightful find for me. Later, writer Soamiely Andriamananjara sent me a translation of Ibonia, the epic poem of Madagascar. In a commentary on Ibonia, the translator Rev. James Sibree Junior, called it the ‘Ramayana of Madagascar.’ I was immensely delighted to find similarities in the grand plot structure of Ibonia and Ramayana. It made me more aware of the ancient and deep cultural connections between the countries in the Indian Ocean. I learned a lot about traditional Malagasy poetry ‘Hainteny’, proverbs ‘Ohabolana’ and art of speech ‘Kabary’.  It was an immense joy to read the news of Madagascar’s traditional art of speech ‘Kabary’ being declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Mankind by UNESCO during the month of December 2021. It was a great delight to select and feature poems of Madagascar’s greatest and Africa’s first modern poet Jean Joseph Rabearivelo at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative during Madagascar Literature Month.

During the whole December I had the opportunity to interview Madagascar’s leading contemporary authors – Michele Rakotson, Naivo, Johary Ravolson, Jean Luc Raharimanana, Soamiley Andrimananjara, Milay Andrimananjara, Mose Njo among others. It was a great pleasure to present the works of ten contemporary Malagasy poets who have been participating in the monthly literary programme LaLitTana in Antananarivo, in English translation for the first time.

I would like to thank Karen Van Drie and Global Literature in Libraries Initiative for this delightful opportunity. I would like to thank all the writers and poets who are featured here and my special thanks to the translators Leonard Fox and Allison Charette for their pioneering work on translating works of Malagasy literature into English.

Here is a list of all the posts during the month for the ease of access and reading –

Introduction

Introducing Poet-Diplomat Abhay K., the guest-editor of #MadagascarLitMonth by Karen Van Drie

Introducing The Magic of Madagascar by Abhay K.

Traditional Literature of Madagascar

Ibonia: The Ramayana of Madagascar

Ohabolana: Malagasy Proverbs

Kabary: Traditional Malagasy Speech

Hainteny : Traditional Poetry of Madagascar

From Soarabe to Latin Script

Interviews with the Contemporary Malagasy Writers by Abhay K.

Michele Rakotson

Naivo

Johary Ravaloson

Jean Luc Raharimanana

Soamiely Andrimananjara

Mialy Andrimananjara

Mose Njo

Interview with the Translator of Malagasy Literature by Abhay K.

Allison Charette

Poetry of Madagascar

Immortal Poetry of Jean Joseph Rabearivelo

The Poetry of Elie Rajaonarison

Contemporary Poetry of Madagascar

Book Review

The Magic of Madagascar reviewed by Arefa Tehsin

Before ending this fabulous month of reading and relishing Malagasy literature, I would like to leave you with a list of books on Madagascar for your further reading –

The Gardens of Mars by John Gimlette

The Eighth Continent: Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar

Bradt: Madagascar

The Sloth Lemur’s Song: Madagascar from the Deep Past to the Uncertain Present

Wishing you a magical journey to Madagascar!

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 PoemsCAPITALS, 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.

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