Beyond the Rice Fields

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BEYOND THE RICE FIELDS

by Naivo
translated by Allison M. Charette
Restless Books
Pub date: October 17, 2017

The first novel from Madagascar ever to be translated into English, Naivo’s magisterial Beyond the Rice Fields delves into the upheavals of the nation’s past as it confronted Christianity and modernity, through the twin narratives of a slave and his master’s daughter.

Previewed on BBC.com

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.

Reviews

"[Readers] will be rewarded by a sudden rush of clarity, and a sense of contact with a vanished world."

"This is no Things Fall Apart, setting out a simple before-and-after story of how colonialism impacted Africa. Rather, Beyond the Rice Fields is a spiraling, dense, and prickly work, difficult to access until the foreign reader has agreed to put in some time and effort. But once the effort is put in, it is richly rewarding."

-- Kate Prengel, Words Without Borders