By Ananda Devi
Translated by Kazim Ali
A poetic, autobiographical collection from famed Mauritanian writer Ananda Devi, engaging with loneliness, desire, violence, and aging.
Publication Date: August 16, 2022
“I’m sick of biting off and chewing this dust, of scratching with my thin claws, searching for some chunk of literary gold to hell with all the disarrayed images of our homelands reflections of our particular misery.”
From eminent Mauritanian writer Ananda Devi, a collection that transgresses genre lines with poetic, autobiographical flow. The pieces herein address the resonance of personal memories and regrets, the political world, and sexuality. In light of the complexity of human identity, Devi emphasizes the importance of each word chosen, speaking directly to the reader and asking them to “peel back my skin. Unclothe me of myself."
Born in Mauritius, Ananda Devi is one of the major French language writers and was awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2010. Her literary awards include the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie (2006) and Prix Télévision Suisse Romande (2007) for Eve Out of Her Ruins, as well as the Prix Louis-Guilloux (2010) and the Prix Mokanda (2012) for other works. The English edition of Eve Out of Her Ruins was published by Deep Vellum in 2015.
Kazim Ali has translated books by Marguerite Duras, Sohrab Sepehri, and Mahmoud Chokrollahi. His own work as a poet and writer includes books of poetry, fiction, essays and mixed genre work. He is currently a professor and chair of the Department of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.
“If I had only one word to define this book, it would be aliveness—a synonym, plausibly, in Ananda Devi’s idiolect, for freedom. Everything—from the Night in the title, to skin, to mud, to a green sari, to sound, to Time itself—is alive ... Translated with calm dexterity and breathtaking attention by Kazim Ali, this is a collection that held my body—eyes and heart and brain—in its jaws from beginning till end.” —Karthika Naïr
“Ananda Devi is an Indian writer from Mauritius now living in France, or a French writer with her roots on the island and South Asia, or a Mauritian writer in the tradition of great colonized voices who have renewed French poetry and prose—or a feminist poet and novelist without borders. This book of harsh lyric and enigmatic, theoretical and erotic prose, takes on a second life in Kazim Ali’s sensitive translation.” —Marilyn Hacker
“The work of Mauritian poet Ananda Devi is rightly celebrated in the Francophone world and in When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me, the Anglophone world gets a glimpse of the depth and complexity of this writer’s thinking and lived experience. In Kazim Ali’s translation, the allusive density of Ananda Devi’s poetry is clarified and given air. We see the way Devi transfers agency to the real and the abstract: the ‘mud about which/ The future has nothing to say’ and also the ‘woman erased by her bruises’. Devi’s poetry has suffering, resignation but also a deep, visceral joy that shines through. Ali, as a poet himself, is very conscious of what it takes to live upon an earth riven by borders and crossings of all kinds, and he brings all of that experience to this translation.” —Sridala Swami