Cover Image: When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me

When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

a lyrically enticing set of poems. the author touches on subjects of womanhood, the way politicians are able to say things others would not get away with, young boys being lost to political wars and sexuality.

i've never read anything by a mauritiuan author before so this was really cool to read. the themes of the poems were similar to themes you can find in other parts of the world.

initially, i don't think i fully understood what all the poems were about until i read the 'interview with the author' at the end so this made the reading journey a little confusing at some points for me.

i think the author has created some great imagery with her descriptions.

Was this review helpful?

Stunning poetry collection here - it flows in a dreamy way, and nothing was lost in the translation process. Some of the poems are emotionally deep and raw while others are light as clouds. If you enjoy heartfelt poetry, then you'll love this book.
Thank you to both Netgalley and the author for this arc!

Was this review helpful?

What a mesmerizing book of poetry “When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me” by Ananda Devi is. I opened it with no expectation or knowledge of what it would be, and found a book of beauty, deep pain and superb use of language. Maybe I should have intuited it from the title which grasped my imagination immediately. The sole idea of the night “agreeing” to speak contains such aliveness, personifying the time of darkness and introducing the idea of consent in the relationship to the poet - maybe a hint to the feminist themes that are to emerge from the book.

The very first poem, structured cleanly in five stanzas of four lines each, guides the reader into a space of absences, where “nothing’s left” of people, “just the low sky, the river grasses, / wild water / abandoned beehives”. There, “your ears strain to hear / the voices of those absent / until the night at last / agrees to speak to you.” (/3). For if nothing is left of what was of a country colonized, at least the night, in its vastness, will stay with you. In a poem later in the collection, the night speaks “with a blade / that slices / into the places of certainty / that carves / love into loneliness” (/51) - the night becomes a sort of companion, “neither lover nor enemy”, but a mirror into life itself.

Not only the night is personified - later we find “brambles” waiting “to be fed by wounds” (/11). Absences keep re-emerging, “of the island there only remains / footsteps echoing of those long gone since” (/15, in French, “Que les pas des absents”). Pain sweeps slowly in, until the brink of suicide (“There came to me the desire / for pills delicate and white” /25) that is only kept at bay by love and the closeness of others (“You will feed me, you / My sometimes spouses, / When I no longer have the strength / To feed myself.” /25). And yet staying afloat isn’t easy (“The sum of moments comes to nothing / Survival feels useless: death is so overrated / There was nothing before and will be nothing after” /27).

The book continues with these rhythms until its second part, so to say, which consists of prose poems more overtly political, grounded in a post-colonial context. For example “Words Die a Slow Death” explores the ways in which words lose meaning in certain political discourses, while “Poetics of Islands” is a meditation on colonized islands, refusing the romanticization of the homeland and exploring the losses of resistance (“How can you not enter a state of rage like entering a state of grace” /72).

Devi is a Mauritian author of Telugu ancestry, something I found out only later and which helps get a better understanding of her texts. Reading the French original next to the English translation by Kazim Ali gave it even more depth, and I am glad to have been able to practice some of my French, remembering how words are pronounced and noticing the assonances and rhymes, some of which are reflected in the translation. The end note by the translator, the interview with the author and the critical text by Mohit Chandna add another layer to a book already filled with emotion and meaning.

“The bolts are broken / The door swings open / Forever impossible / The first step outside of myself.” /45

Thanks to Netgalley for the e-ARC.

Was this review helpful?

What a beautiful collection of poetry. When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me was my first exposure to Ananda Devi's work and what an amazing collection it was. It had me feeling SO many emotions as Devi's poetry dives into the colonial past of her home, Mauritius. The fact that Kazim Ali's translation of Devi's collection starts each poem with the original French version makes it feel so unique as you can see the differences and even feel different emotions between them as well as be beautifully sensitive to the meaning beneath the words.

Overall, When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me is an amazing collection of heartfelt poems that hold boundless emotions like the waters surrounding Mauritius. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves poetry.

Thank you, NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers India for sending me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

incredibly unique style (one page in French and the next the English translation) and gorgeous poetry and stream-of-consciousness prose reflections.

Was this review helpful?

This volume of poetry is beautiful and emotional. It focuses on the hard and sometimes painful truths of a male dominated society that tries to control a woman's body. There is vivid imagery where the beauty of nature is often contrasted with violence and decay. There are lines within the poems that I loved and brought me to tears. I appreciate that this volume had the original French text along with the translations. I also enjoyed the end matter included along with this book. It really added context.

Was this review helpful?

Absolutely loved this devastating collection of poetry.

I have never read a book like this before, it is so unique. Each poet is in both French & Engligh language.

The prose short stories towards the end are beautiful, yet harrowing. Each poet & prose reflect on culture & politics via womens body & experience.

The translators own chapter was uniquely brilliant. I understand his descriptions how her words come through his body via 'dram'.

The final chapter reflection analyse take you deeper into the meaning of the words.

Have never read such a wonderful poetry book & will recommend to others.

Was this review helpful?

"When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me" is a bilingual (French/English) book of poetry and prose with an interview between the author and translator and additional notes at the end. The poetry and prose beautifully mix and flow between light and dark with visceral imagery and deep emotion. This is a gorgeous collection, made all the more impactful through the additional notes and interview included at the end. Highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

I loved Devi's style it reminded me of Marine Pretossian. I would recommend it to every poetry lover, it was a great read. I enjoyed it a lot. Definitely a must read author.

Was this review helpful?

Honestly speaking, this was a good book. It just didn't wow me like I thought it would. This is truly just personal preference since poetry is very subjective and people receive the writing in a poetry book in different ways!

Was this review helpful?

Ananda Devi's "When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me" is a beautiful poetry collection followed by three short prose pieces. Each poem is shown in the original language followed by the English translation. The poems range in topics spanning from politics, feminism, loneliness, family, and everything in between. Additionally, the end of the book contains an interview with the poet, which provides an interesting perspective on the power of language and the inspiration behind the poems. The interview provided key context to the meaning of certain poems and explained certain ideas that were lost in translation. Looking back, I wish that each poem would have had an annotation from the author explaining her inspiration. This would have brought more meaning to the poems and brought more clarity to the author's intentions.

Was this review helpful?

oh my god. i loved everything about this. i loved how the original french that the poetry was written in was kept in the book, then the translations were on the next page. i loved the writing and the prose. some of the lines were so good i just had to highlight them and come back to them! also, i loved the interview. the first answer to the question made me feel so many things. i love devi’s style of writing and speaking and ali’s way of translating these poems <3

Was this review helpful?

when the night agreed to speak with me is very hazy and dreamlike, with a few poems seeming to come into focus and then drop away again. every few pages, something would click and i’d feel connected to the writing, but then i’d turn the page & be lost again. it does very much feel like stumbling around a night, trying to find the light.
the french & english side by side is very interesting, i think if u read both u would have the most impact. there is something interesting about how the words + feelings translate. i only speak very minimal french & most of it i have forgotten, so i feel like this added layer of meaning was lost on me.
i do think a lot of people would love this, but it didn’t impact me in the way i expected it to <3

Was this review helpful?

It had each poem in French and English which is neat.
I liked them. I can feel the emotion in each piece.

Was this review helpful?

Ⓑⓞⓞⓚ Ⓡⓔⓥⓘⓔⓦ

"𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑰𝒔𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒐𝒏𝒍𝒚 𝒓𝒆𝒎𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒔 𝒇𝒐𝒐𝒕𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒑𝒔 𝒆𝒄𝒉𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒍𝒐𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒈𝒐𝒏𝒆"

“When The Night Agrees To Speak To Me” is a short collection of poetry and prose written originally in French by Ananda Devi and then translated into English by Kazim Ali. Both versions appear side by side in this book and, even though I cannot read or speak French, it was interesting to see the original text.

In some parts, the flow of the writing doesn’t always feel “right” but this is just the inevitability of concepts being ‘lost in translation’ and is worth looking past to enjoy a deep and moving piece of literature.

Devi’s poetry is quite abstract and contains alluring imagery of a hard-hitting truths we may not always wish to face. She portrays immense heartache, anger and other difficult emotions with flare and beautiful simplicity and I found it very relatable.

Her prose pieces are a bit more concrete and feature her questioning our blind obedience to people in power. You can feel her frustrations surrounding our lack of true freedom and she touches on the influence that increasing propaganda has on our lives.

At the end of Devi’s collection, Ali writes on how he came across Devi’s work and his process of translating it. Following this is an interview with Devi herself. This offers an intriguing insight into meanings behind her work as well as a look into her background and approaches to writing.

I really enjoyed this read and would definitely recommend it.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Net Galley for an advanced copy of this ebook in exchange for my honest review.

I really enjoyed this. The poetry was rich and beautiful, I especially loved the longer form poems starting with 'Words Die a Slow Death.

I think the ebook suffered from some formatting issues which I expect would not be present in a print version however. I appreciated that the original French was included with the English translation, I can't really read French but I liked the opportunity to refer and compare between the two. I also enjoyed the interview with Devi and the additional context provided towards the end of the book. I could have read 500 more pages of Devi's thoughts and the process behind her writing.

I'd have preferred to have some of the contextual information at the start so I'd read it before reading the poems, but it was still nice to have it at all and to see how closely the translator worked with Devi to try and convey the spirit of the poems in the translation.

Was this review helpful?

There were a few poems in this collection that lept out at me. I do think that some of the impact was possibly lost in translation, but I still found it to be haunting and beautiful.

Was this review helpful?

There was only one line that I liked through this whole poetry collection. It was hard to read but that might be because of the translation. The poetry collection had the original and translation to English.

Was this review helpful?

When The Night Agrees To Speak With Me is a powerful if short work of poetry and prose. I really enjoyed the poems and loved that the original French was also kept in the book (translation). While I don’t understand much French myself, I feel like especially in poetry it can be helpful to have the original next to the translation, so people who speak both languages can get a feel on both. I find poetry especially hard to translate myself as rhythm and intonation tend to change across languages, which can change the entire meaning and perception of the poem.
About half of the book were interviews with the author, translator and an analysis/interpretation of the collection. While those were interesting, it was not something I expected, especially not taking up roughly half of the entire book, but I can see the relevance of it.

All in all an interesting read I can recommend.

Was this review helpful?

What a heartfelt, sincere, and flesh cutting poetry collection! It feels like a muted scream in the nighttime or an entrails ripping struggle to cherish life despite its horrors.
The Devi’s poems in French are exquisite, reaching beyond expectations. Their translations tend to do them justice although some toned them down a little.

Was this review helpful?