(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Night makes its way into our bodies and refuses to leave. Night and our hormones gone wild. We boys are bundles of frustration. We start following girls to the shuttered factory that devoured our mothers’ dreams. Maybe that’s also what’s waiting for them. There’s nothing left of the factory but an empty metal shell and hundreds of sewing machines which carved into their shoulders that curve of despair and into their hands those nicks and cuts like tattoos. The remnants of every woman who worked here linger. “
That is Saad, one of four seventeen year olds who poignantly describe life of survival in Troumaron on the beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. This is the part of the island that tourists never see.
Eve: “I am in permanent negotiation. My body is a stop-over. … Everyone leaves some trace, marks his territory. …I’m buying my future. I am transparent.” She only has one girlfriend, Savita , who sees her as “shipwrecked” and desperately wants to save her.
Saad and Clélio find other methods of survival. Saad admits “Nobody really wants to do it, but when you’re a gang, you have to forget that you’re a person, you have to be part of this moving, powerful, hot body that nothing can stop. Once you start moving, you have to go all the way.”
Saad is in love with Eve, but she admits to him “The day I say I love you to a man, I’ll kill myself.” Clélio is consumed with his own issues, filling him with so much anger that it is stifling.
It’s disturbing enough to hear the everyday accounts of desperation from these four teenagers, along with the institutionalized violence, especially against women. Unfortunately, the unspeakable does occur with all of the inevitable consequences, hitting the reader like a ton of bricks.
As you can tell from the quotes I selected – and it was difficult to pick just a few- , author Ananda Devi, originally from Mauritius herself, writes such beautiful prose, but doesn’t sugar-coat life on this popular tourist destination. What I can’t figure out is how she can write with such beauty while expressing the ugliness so vividly. I don’t know how much of it is due to Jeffrey Zuckerman’s translation.
I recommend Eve Out of Her Ruins for those who relish beautiful prose along with readers and travelers who need a dose of reality. Unfortunately, that’s most of us.