A rich and privileged scion of a famous Malagasy family reacquaints himself with his roots after a trying period abroad in Ravaloson’s English language debut.
You can call Ietsy Razak spoiled. His ancestors might have sailed the seven seas to reach the island nation of Malagasy, but once there they established their dominance over generations: “They replaced the original masters of this land, transforming their existence into myth by integrating them, conquering them, or driving them to the wilder ends of the earth. They wound their way into the delicate, tightly interlaced caste system, asserting their dominance by force, alliances, or more often the timely breaking of alliances. They always supported the kingdom’s expansion and took their share of the spoils.” To this day, the Razaks know which side the bread is buttered on. Nevertheless when tragedy strikes close to home, Ietsy’s father packs him off to France, where Ietsy pursues law and continues his spoiled-brat existence: “What are you going to live off of?” a friend asks. “I…am blessed by the Gods and Ancestors,” Ietsy replies. Sure, pal! Such callous pigheadedness is not viable currency for long, and a rather banal incident, which grows out of control, forces Ietsy back to his homeland. By this time, his poor little rich boy act has gotten tiresome. What’s more, the unevenly translated novel also tries to tell the story of Malagasy’s origins, but that plotline turns out to be even more frustrating. “For the Children of the Broken Vow, the original people of the great island—whether they be those of the coasts, Vazimban-driaka; of the forests, Vazimban’ala; of the mountains, Vazimbam-bohitra; or the waters, Vazimban-drano, and later of the savannas, Vazimban-tanety, established where the great Ietsy had sculpted their ancestors—were all forever betrayed by those who came after belatedly answering the Great Ancestor’s call, more greedy and having made no vows, to seize the land of the Vazimbas.” A lot of head-scratching later, the central thesis remains as muddy as ever.
Set in an island nation, the novel drowns under the weight of its own confusing narrative.