“Two trunks and a pot”, Ananda Devi’s writing lessons

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The Mauritian writer Ananda Devi in ​​2001 in Paris, on the occasion of the 21st Book Fair.

After more than half a century of literary production, Ananda Devi revisits her own journey in a new opus entitled Two trunks and a pot. In this autobiographical essay titled like a tale and which reads like a novel, the Mauritian writer reviews the essential questions at the basis of her vocation.

What, from an early age, aroused in her an irrepressible desire to write? Which texts and which authors have nourished or reinforced its approach? By what mystery operates in her the editorial process? What events or images led to the emergence of his main texts? And we know that she produced a lot of them (collections of poetry, short stories, novels, stories), very early on: she published in the year she turned 20, in 1977.

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In the last part of the book, the author returns to the field of current affairs by expressing her uncertainties about the possibility of continuing to write with enthusiasm, freedom and sincerity in our world subject to radical changes and won in particular by the resentment emanating from social networks.

“Our voluptuous dreams”

It is to the teenager she was that Ananda Devi chose to address her answers and reflections. Indeed, believing that she has kept the same state of mind as her double in the past, she calls out to him beyond the past years: “… I am old today dear young girl of my beginnings. And yet we are the same, you and I, with our voluptuous dreams, our desire to be others to grasp the impossible, our chameleon nature, and the absolute need to write in order to live, to survive, to exist perhaps. … ”

However, the reader does not feel left out, but on the contrary very quickly caught up in the beauty of the text and by the light it sheds on the person of the writer as well as on her writing factory. “The adventure of the imagination, for a little girl born in 1957 in a tiny village called Trois Boutiques where there wasn’t much going on, at least in her everyday life, hence perhaps will she come? “, she wonders, before evoking her passion for the book born in her childhood and which will never be denied.

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Born into a family of landowners in Mauritius, pampered, privileged, the girl of the time fights against boredom thanks to the reading of the works that her father brings back regularly in a trunk, from the capital Port- Louis. Ananda plunges pell-mell into thrillers, sentimental or swashbuckling novels, classical works, atlases … One day, The thousand and One Nights opens in her the floodgates of an intoxicating sensual turmoil that only writing will know how to transcend.

“Statue woman”

At the age of 7 already, the girl began to write a large number of texts. She feverishly adds “Hundreds of short stories, poems, romans, thousands of pages of writing, school notebooks, notebooks the clumsy typescripts at the beginning then more and more clean ”. So many writings which, in turn, will fill the second important trunk of his life, over which his mother watches. Until the latter’s death, followed by a cyclone and a flood, wiped out this great production.

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As a reaction, Ananda continues on the road to letters. She first explores the texts of important African writers of the 1970s: Achebe, Hampâté Ba, Brink, Kourouma, Labou Tansi, Soyinka, Tutuola… The power of their texts dazzles her and guides her positioning: “You open your eyes to the world around you and begin to understand it, to apprehend it through writing. From there, it will be your world. Maurice, your dear material, your intimate fabric, your burn; the center of your writing. “ And so, book after book, Ananda Devi will build her work to the point of becoming the one that is now presented as the great lady of Mauritian letters.

We still come across in this long reflection “A naked fisherman”, French and English-speaking authors – Guyotat, Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath, John Keats… -, but also certain narrators of his novels, such as Anjali, Eve, Gunji, Paule, Pagli, as well as“A woman statuified by a pot of boiling rice poured over her head”. Because in this essay as in his other books, violence and sensuality circulate between the pages. There is no doubt that we must see in them the keys to entering the world of an author with a sharp pen, who has chosen to live forever in the “Kingdom of prohibitions and sovereign and poetic instinct, where wounds are necessary because there is no learning without them”.

Two trunks and a pot, essay by Ananda Devi, Project’îles editions, 2021.

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“Two trunks and a pot”, Ananda Devi’s writing lessons