REVIEW by Willard Manus
new novel takes you behind the facade of the island of Mauritius, a popular
tourist destination off the coast of Africa thanks to its golden beaches,
luxurious shops, hotels and villas. Devi, who was born on the island and
grew up in a family of Indian heritage, writes about the real
Mauritius, a Third World hellhole in which crime, violence and poverty
blight the lives of the population generale.
Eve is one of those poor folk, a 17-year-old girl from the town of Troumaron,
a marsh at the base of the mountains. Several buildings are starting
to tilt. Soon, well have our own Leaning Tower of Pisa, she
observes. Eve is smart, tough and defiant, a remarkable young woman who,
as Nobel Prize-winner J.M.G. Le Clezio says in a foreword, does
not accept, does not submit and defies her father and the world, who laughs
while toying with mens desires.
Eve fights mightily to escape her garbage-filled, gang-controlled shantytown,
going so far as to sleep with one of her teachers, in return for some
tutoring. Its a cold, calculating move on her part; neither she
nor her best friend (and lover) Savita have much use for men. The
day I say I love you to a man, Ill kill myself, Savita confides.
The two males
in the novel are the slum kids, Saadiq and Clelio. The former reads Rimbaud
but must hide the fact from his ganja-smoking, rough-house peers lest
they brand him a sissy. Clelio is one of the roughs: Im at
war, is how he describes himself. Fighting everybody and nobody.
I cant get away from my rage. Someday, I know it, Ill kill
There is an explanation for his pent-up resentment. His hero, his older
brother Carlo, went to France ten years ago, promising to return when
he had money and take him back to Europe with him. But he never did show
up. He hasnt done well, Clelio realizes. I know
There is no escaping Troumaron for most of its inhabitants, no transcending
its stifling, violence-filled environment. Yet Eve persists in her quest,
braving brutality, rape, treachery and murder to try and construct a new
life, a new personhood, for herself. Her journey, harrowing and doomed
as it may be, is described with unforgettable poetry and power.
When I finished EVE OUT OF HER RUINS, I could not help but think of Pascals
remark: I praise and prize only that writer who tells the truth
about menwith tears in his eyes.
(Deep Vellum Publishing, $14.95 ppbk. Skillfully translated from the French
by Jeffrey Zuckerman)