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Naivo.

The opening up of the African literary scene—the inter-lingual communion of its Indigenous, Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone literatures—remains in progress. Each year, a step forward is taken. In 2017, Abdulai Sila’s The Ultimate Tragedy became the first novel from Guinea-Bissau to be translated into English. Earlier this year, Trifonia Melibea Obono’s La Bastarda became the first English-language novel by a woman out of Equatorial Guinea. And now Beyond the Rice Fields, the debut novel by Malagasy writer Naivoharisoa Patrick Ramamonjisoa whose publishing name is Naivo, has become the first novel from Madagascar to be translated into English. It was first published in its French original version in March 2012 by Éditions Sépia in Paris. Translated by Allison M. Charette, the 400-page book tells the story of a girl, Fara, who falls in love with her father’s slave, Tsito, against the backdrop of “upheavals of the nation’s [Madagascar’s] past as it confronted Christianity and modernity.”

Here is a description by its international publishers Simon & Schuster:

Fara and her father’s slave, Tsito, have been close since her father bought the boy after his forest village was destroyed. Now in Sahasoa, amongst the cattle and rice fields, everything is new for Tsito, and Fara at last has a companion. But as Tsito looks forward to the bright promise of freedom and Fara, backward to a dark, long-denied family history, a rift opens between them just as British Christian missionaries and French industrialists arrive and violence erupts across the country. Love and innocence fall away, and Tsito and Fara’s world becomes enveloped by tyranny, superstition, and fear.

With captivating lyricism, propulsive urgency, and two unforgettable characters at the story’s core, Naivo unflinchingly delves into the brutal history of nineteenth-century Madagascar. Beyond the Rice Fields is a tour de force that has much to teach us about human bondage and the stories we tell to face—and hide from—ourselves, each other, our pasts, and our destinies.

In an email to Brittle Paper, Nathan Rostron, Editor and Marketing Director of Restless Books, stated:

This translation from the French lets English-language readers discover a surprising and beautiful part of African culture unfamiliar to most.

Beyond the Rice Fields has drawn remarkable comparisons. With its treatment of friendship across social classes, it has been likened to Spanish Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, American Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and Afghan Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Its richly detailed portrayal of the 19th-century clash between Madagascar’s ancestral culture and European modernity and Christianity has put it in a similar thematic tradition as the novels of Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz, and Ghana’s Yaa Gyasi. And its exploration of slavery in Madagascar, a phenomenon predating colonialism, has seen it presented as telling “a story of human bondage that offers a slant perspective on American history” and as “a fitting companion to [American] Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, [Jamaican] Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women, [and Moroccan] Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account.

The novel has earned advance praise as well.

Publishers Weekly wrote:

Naivo’s novel . . . pairs a sweeping, tragic love story with the 19th-century history of his island, when it teetered “on the verge of catastrophe.” Naivo’s encyclopedic attempt to capture Madagascar’s history is admirable . . . the novel’s characters [are] fully realized in the novel’s thrilling conclusion . . . Naivo provides readers with an astonishing amount of information about Madagascar’s culture and past.

Africultures describes it this way:

The epic story of a country entering a new era. This love and adventure story doubles as a discreet but caustic challenge of the foundations of contemporary Malagasy society itself. A celebration of language and culture, and a needle-sharp questioning of the machinery of society. This novel is both easy and complex, seductive and provocative, sentimental and clear-sighted. A journey through time, space, language, and the human heart—or, everything that we ask of a novel.

Naivoharisoa Patrick Ramamonjisoa has worked as a journalist in his home country of Madagascar and as a teacher in Paris. He now lives and works as a journalist in Ottawa, Canada. Naivo received the RFI/ACCT prize in 1996 for his short story “Dahalo,” and another of his stories, “Iarivomandroso,” was adapted for a theatrical production in Antananarivo, Madagascar. He recently published a short story collection, Madagascar entre poivre et vanille, which explores various topics pertaining to contemporary Madagascar including the socialist era, the recurrent political coups, the corruption of the judiciary system, and the monarchic and colonial resurgences.

The translator Allison M. Charette​ translates literature from French into English. She received a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for Beyond the Rice Fields. She founded the Emerging Literary Translators’ Network in America (ELTNA.org), a networking and support group for early-career translators. Allison has published two other book-length translations, in addition to short translated fiction that has appeared in Words Without Borders, The Other Stories, Tupelo Quarterly, InTranslation, The SAND Journal, and more. Find her online at charettetranslations.com.

Congratulations to Naivoharisoa Patrick Ramamonjisoa.

To buy Beyond the Rice Fields:

Contact:​ nathan@restlessbooks.com

Orders:​ purchaseorders@simonandschuster.com

For more Info, visit HERE.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies and Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Naivo’s Beyond The Rice Fields Is the First Novel from Madagascar to be Translated into English” Subscribe

  1. John Chizoba Vincent 2018/05/13 at 11:22 #

    Beautiful one… Can’t wait to lay my hands on it

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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