When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me (excerpt)

Ananda Devi
Translated from the French by Kazim Ali

*You don’t know how to ageYour wounds have opened youTo all the windsYou think you know yourselfBut all you have is emptinessWriting will have only beenthe briefest of mysteries*There is nothing leftWhere there was once a bodyI don’t see you any moreScattered thereShameI never really knewhow to die*Advice?Night left nothingBut scorn for the bedsheetsAnd on the floorAn unrolled swathe of green sariIndifferent to the lotOf a woman effacedby her bruises*This sticky thingIssuing from my bodyAnnouncing every monthIts fatal purityI forgot what it was to liveUntil there were no more grand entrancesOf this resinous muck

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Born in Mauritius, Ananda Devi has been writing for over four decades and is considered one of the major Francophone writers of Mauritius and the Indian Ocean. She is the author of eighteen books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She has been awarded the Prix Radio France du Libre de L’Océan Indien for her novel Moi, l’interdite, the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie for Ève de ses décombres (recently published in English as Eve Out of Her Ruins), the Prix Louis Guilloux for her novel Le sari vert, and the Prix Étonnants Voyageurs for Manger l’autre. In addition to Eve Out of Her Ruins, her novels translated into English include Indian Tango, Pagli, and The Living Days. She was awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010, and in 2014 she received the Prix du rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature Françaises from the Académie Française.

Tanya Rosen-Jones

Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom and has lived transnationally in the United States, Canada, India, France, and the Middle East. His books encompass multiple genres, including the volumes of poetry Inquisition, Sky Ward, winner of the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry; The Far Mosque, winner of Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award; The Fortieth Day; All One’s Blue; and the cross-genre texts Bright Felon and Wind Instrument. His novels include the recently published The Secret Room: A String Quartet and among his books of essays are the hybrid memoir Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies and Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice. He is also an accomplished translator (of Marguerite Duras, Sohrab Sepehri, Ananda Devi, Mahmoud Chokrollahi and others) and an editor of several anthologies and books of criticism.

After a career in public policy and organizing, Ali taught at various colleges and universities, including Oberlin College, Davidson College, St. Mary’s College of California, and Naropa University. He is currently a Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego. His newest books are a volume of three long poems entitled The Voice of Sheila Chandra and a memoir of his Canadian childhood, Northern Light.


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