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Le ciel par-dessus le toit

Le ciel par-dessus le toit (2019) is written by Mauritian born author Natacha Appanah and translated into English by Geoffrey Strachan as The sky above the roof (2023).

The sky above the roof is the story of Wolf, his sister Paloma and their mother, Phoenix. A broken family, reunited when 17 year old Wolf is incarcerated after a crash. Paloma left home 10 years ago after a fight with Phoenix. As she leaves their family home, she tells Wolf that she will come back for him. Paloma never does not back. On that fateful day where they will reunite, Wolf just wanted to see his sister and took the car to see her... What could go wrong?

Wolf is different and sees the world differently. He is not sick, everyone understands that. He is described as bizarre, strange, foolish... Bizarre, étrange, bête... Wolf exists in his own poetic world of words and rhymes. His neurodivergent mind and his love of words are his strength and comfort.

When Wolf is brought to the jail, he remembers Verlaine’s poem of the same title: The sky above the roof (1881).

Verlaine's poem provides the most poetic backdrop as the lives of Wolf, Paloma and Phoenix unravels. Among the tragedy and trauma spanning decades, Appanah takes us back to when Phoenix was better known as Éliette, to the beginning. The sky, blue and calm is constant and grounding.

The sky also reflects the characters' mood and feelings throughout the read. Sadness, melancholia and nostalgia is present in Appanah's writing... La melancolie qui accompagne toujours cette heure bleue... the melancholy that is always present at this blue hour...

Il lève les yeux au ciel et celui-ci est aussi couleur de boue.
He looks up at the sky and that, too, is mud-colored.


Et le ciel si bleu, par-dessus tout ça, comme un mensonge.
And by the sky, so blue above all this, like a lie.

I had the opportunity to join in the live conversation with Natacha Appanah, across multiple continents, time zones and landscapes, to listen to her book talk. So interesting to find out the process and ideas behind the story that brings another layer to the complexities of the characters of Wolf, Paloma and Phoenix.

In starting Mo Zistwar, my vision has always been that it would be a place to promote Mauritian authors and have books available in their original language as well as translated in English for an Australian audience. I have enjoyed discovering Appanah's writing and nuances in both languages. Both books are finally available at Mo Zistwar shop.

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