Rama Poonoosamy and the Immedia team launched the 26th annual literary anthology in their series, Collection Maurice,at a hotel venue in Ebene. Once again, it is not just an excellent selection of brand new Mauritian short stories but represents the fruit of a clear labour of love. The consistency and high standards of editing that Rama Poonoosamy and his team have maintained over a quarter of a century, continue into this one entitled Thrills, En haleine, Zistwar Sispans. And, the speciality of the Collection is maintained: there are stories in three languages. This time there are 14 in English, 12 in French and 7 in Kreol. As usual there are very accomplished writers like Ananda Devi, who has a short story in English this time, as well as writers being published for the very first time.
In all, over the 26 years, Immedia has published 744 original Mauritian short stories by 151 different writers, as Rama Poonoosamy mentioned in his remarks while chairing the event. This annual collection is a truly magnificent contribution to contemporary Mauritian literature. It has had the role of helping to democratize Mauritian literature – in terms of the writers, the people editing, the languages used, and the readers – from being the playground of a small elite to being a more openly public space.
The launch speech was one of the first public speeches of the new President of the Republic, Mr Pradeep Roopun, formerly Culture Minister. As is his custom, he spoke in a well-prepared, sober way and, en passant, said that the Kreol Language will soon be introduced as one of the languages of the National Assembly. LALIT hopes it is “soon” not in the sense of a mirage which is always soon but never real. Former President of the Republic Cassam Uteem, who has long experience of giving a critical appreciation of the annual anthology, chose this time to concentrate on four of the stories in Kreol. He not only read from Ramesh Ramdoyal’s story, but read from the original Urdu poetry quotations in the story. Cassam Uteem then chose to read from and comment on my story Enn Ka Apar, moving in the extract he chose from South Africa to Ireland, via Kinks music and politics and the main character’s continued feeling of loss after her sister had been killed kout bal. Mr Uteem also commented on Jean Lindsay Dhookit’s courage in using creative literature for processing of the historic reality of the tragic bagar rasyal in Port Louis in the 1960’s. Mr Uteem then appropriately called Mohunparsad Bhurtun Mauritius’ griot, placing his short story, a historical cameo, amongst slaves and runaway slaves. Cassam Uteem’s experience in drama in his youth always makes his speeches particularly accomplished.
After the formal part of the launch ceremony, people gathered in the foyer around snacks and drinks, clutching their books, while chatting and laughing, many of those present thoroughly enjoying meeting once a year at the annual event.