The Millions

In Defense of Discomfort: On Naivo’s ‘Beyond the Rice Fields’

If a writer from Madagascar wishes to reach a wide audience, they write in French, not Malagasy.

In Madagascar, French is the language of higher education, of high-paying jobs, and of international communication. The story of how Madagascar came to use the language of its colonizers is like that of many former colonies: When French and British missionaries arrived in Madagascar more than 200 years ago, they brought Western education and the Latin alphabet, along with religious conflict and political violence. Madagascar regained its independence in 1960, after 64 years under official French rule, but for many years the Malagasy education system was still based on the French. Today the country’s small publishing scene remains largely francophone. French, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, has always been the only venue through which a Malagasy writer could reach an international audience.

Now, Malagasy literature has come to the English-speaking world: by is the first novel

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