Cale d’étoiles-coolitude, translated as Cargo Hold of stars-coolitude, has been selected for the prestigious Oxford-Weidenfeld Award.
A work written in 1989, inspired by Mauritius as the nerve centre of the coolie trade, it was published in 1992, in Reunion island, by Christian Vittori.
The work of translation began with Nancy Carlson, who associated me with this insightful adventure, which lasted 2 years, as so many traps for translators abound in this text.
Finally, we made it with much pleasure, in the very moments challenging the translator’s acumen.
I thank Nancy for her patience and the Seagull editions (Calcutta-Chicago), which are renowned for the quality of their publications, for having believed in this book.
I feel like I’m reliving the happiness I knew when Cale d’étoiles hit the headlines when it was launched by President Uteem in Mauritius.
At that time, the book was welcomed both as a liberating and improbable work, challenging the erased voices of the indentured workers or coolies and pioneering new studies on indenture.
This later led me to theorize indentureship in a transdisciplinary way, leading to the anthology COOLITUDE (Anthem, 2002), co-written with the historian Marina Carter. And with her again, to the e-anthology COOLITUDE II launched last year at the Ameena Gafoor Institute (UK) (1).
Since then, I have collaborated with UNESCO and the Aapravasi Ghat and continued my work of reflection, theorization and creation to this day.
This selection delights me and confirms the intellectual depth and honesty with which this translation work, which omitted no term, comma or « silence » was carried out. Indeed, it obliterated no iota of the work, which points to the perfect synergy achieved between the text and the translator.
I wish to thank my translator Nancy Carlson for her patience and dedicated efforts, with whom I had an intervention with Bennington Translates, in the USA, two months ago.
The adventure continues even more, as this poetological work led to the foundation of writing History from the ocean. Then, it developed the slavery-indentureship methodology, archipelagic indenture and diasporic approaches that have gained momentum in mainstream. As did inclusive indentureship, pan indenturism, kala pani aesthetics and the complex thinking of post indenture unfolding in academia and beyond.
I believe that Cargo Hold has brought all these promises to the anglophone world.
I now wish to see it translated in Hindi, Arabic, Chinese and other languages. It is, indeed, a page of global History.
I wish good luck to all the other works in the selection.
For now, I already feel privileged to be among these translations.
As stated by Oxford: “The Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize is for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language. It aims to honour the craft of translation and to recognise its cultural importance”.
The voyage of our ancestors has been so dense and has opened endless horizons for us, the heirs to this complex legacy.