In the spiral of colonial conquest in Madagascar, with

In her new novel Ambatomanga, the Malagasy author Michèle Rakotoson tells of the colonial conquest of her nation within the nineteenth century, revisiting by way of fiction the brutalities and destructions that her society has not but totally recovered from. She is the writer of diverse performs, quick tales, essays, tales and novels and attracts most of her inspiration from the each dramatic and thrilling realities of her native Madagascar.

“My mother always told me that at the age of two or three I slept with my head propped up on a book. She, she worked, she was a librarian and her library was right in front of our house, on the hill opposite. And I suffered a lot during my mother’s absence. So to have a connection with my mother I had books. It has been my passion since childhood. A book is fascinating, a word is fascinating…”

Thus talkingMichele Rakotoson, considered one of the nice literary voices of Madagascar. She was born in Antananarivo in 1948 to a journalist father and a librarian mom. She was a journalist herself, notably on the AXADLE headquarters in Paris for greater than twenty years earlier than returning to settle in her nation, which she had been compelled to flee below Didier Ratsiraka for political causes. Still an activist at coronary heart, she now devotes herself to the improvement of solidarity publishing as a part of a mission referred to as “Bokiko” which she initiated and which brings collectively cultural associations from the diaspora and from Madagascar.

Michèle Rakotoson got here to writing within the Seventies, publishing Dadabé, a set of three autobiographical quick tales, first written within the Malagasy language, after which revealed in French in 1984. This first guide was a tribute to the writer’s grandfather, who was a rustic physician and whom she accompanied as somewhat woman on her rounds to deal with her sufferers. Even immediately, she has an actual reverence for this man who traveled the island to distribute drugs to the needy. “Such a man haunts you all your life,” confides the little woman, who has since develop into a well-known author.

Author of diverse works – novels, quick tales, but additionally performs, autobiographical chronicles and essays – this nice woman of African and Malagasy letters was awarded the Grand Francophone Medal by the French Academy in 2012 for all her work.

A protean workWhen Michèle Rakotoson is requested what makes the coherence of her protean work, she usually solutions merely: “Madagascar… It is the search for Madagascar that creates the coherence in my work, and it is the search for me – also because I am a Malagasy who lived in Europe for a very long time and who at the same time when she came home was Malagasy because speaking French at home was out of the question, I had to speak Malagasy. So at first I experienced it as a heartbreak. Now it’s a identity. We had a literary movement, “mitady ny very” (“search the misplaced”). It may be a nationalist movement, but I think it’s really a movement in search of itself, a movement of doubt. I believe that you should have doubts in life, you move forward with doubts.

The search for oneself and the country is one of the constants in Michèle Rakotoson’s work. It goes through the author’s return to childhood in Dadabé, her first work of fiction. She also reviews the exploration of ancestral traditions, especially in the novel Le bain des reliques, published in 1988, where the novelist stages the Malagasy tradition of “fitamphoa”, the second burial, and what is at stake in this ceremony. not only related to mortuary hygiene. More myth and story than novel, Hennoÿ, his third opus, offers an almost Dante-esque crossroad of hell, which can also be read as a question mark about the cycle of life and death.

According to critics, Michèle Rakotoson reached the peak of her art with Lalana, published in 2002, and Juillet au payer: chronicle of a return to Madagascar, published in 2007. The first is a novel. With hypnotic writing, this road novel traces two friends’ initial journey to the sea, a symbol of freedom and infinity. The protagonists thus escape from this prison that African societies have created for their youth. An autobiographical story of re-appropriation from the author of her country and its landmarks, Juillet au pays, in places resembles a report. It is as a journalist that Rakotoson talks about the silence of the hills of his country, the beauty of the landscapes and the dignity of a people who draw from the remains of their magnificent past the strength to withstand the onslaught of such a mercantile present … how miserable.

Denial of historyToday, entering the age of the Great Elders, the author continues her search for the land lost and found in her new novel titled Ambatomanga, Silence and Pain, which she published last fall. This is a historical account, with the subject of the French army’s colonial conquest of the Red Island in the wake of the partition of Africa by the European colonial powers gathered in Berlin in 1885, including France. To avenge a humiliating defeat the island had reserved for it during a first confrontation and above all to establish its guardianship over this stubborn little country, Paris sent an overarmed military expedition in 1895. It decimated the population, bombarded its monuments and places of power and inflicted devastation on cities, villages and rice fields. Despite its magnitude, this tragedy continues to be lost in the history books.

According to Michèle Rakotoson, a heavy weight weighs on this part of Malagasy history.”It is a trauma, and like all traumas, we do not discuss it,” explains the author. There is a denial of history, and the denial is he is one of those who have been invaded. In fact, there are currently many invasions. It’s always the same process. First we break people, then we come. And then we continue to tear them down by saying they were wild. I chose Madagascar because it was an old wound at home that I needed to heal. We won’t get out of this until we understand what happened. Let’s stop being the little wild victim. Nix! We were defeated in war.”

The story of the invasion and conquest of the Red Island is informed in Ambatomanga by way of the factors of view of the slave Tovoa and a younger officer of the French contingent, Frédéric Le Guen. The latter had lengthy relied on the navy strategists of Paris and their discourse on the civilizing mission which based the colonial enterprise. Faced with the horrors of battle, the lieutenant’s illusions disappear, permitting him to develop into conscious of the hypocrisy and cruelty behind the grand speeches. As for the slave Tovoa, who is aware of Malagasy society from the within, he recounts its violence, its corruption, its inside rivalries, which, in response to him, are the causes of the displacement of his nation, in the identical method as “the white, its weapons, its power.

Far from being a simple lawsuit against the West, Ambatomanga is a historian’s novel. On these glaring sides of truth and fiction, Michèle Rakotoson not only sets the trial of colonization, but also brilliantly succeeds in making the “silence and ache” heard by the boys and ladies of historical past on each side throughout the guilt of the colony. line.

Ambatomanga, silence and ache by Michèle Rakotoson. Editions Atelier des nomades, 2021, 268 pages, 18 euros.

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