Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo

Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo (4 March 1901 or 1903 – 22 June 1937), born Joseph-Casimir Rabearivelo, is widely considered to be Africa's first modern poet and the greatest literary artist of Madagascar. Part of the first generation raised under French colonization, Rabearivelo grew up impoverished and failed to complete secondary education. His passion for French literature and traditional Malagasy poetry prompted him to read extensively and educate himself on a variety of subjects, including the French language and its poetic and prose traditions. He published his first poems as an adolescent in local literary reviews, soon obtaining employment at a publishing house where he worked as a proofreader and editor of its literary journals. He published numerous poetry anthologies in French and Malagasy, as well as literary critiques, an opera, and two novels.

Rabearivelo's early period of modernist-inspired poetry showed skill and attracted critical attention but adhered strictly to traditional genre conventions. The surrealist poetry he composed beginning in 1931 displayed greater originality, garnering him strong praise and acclaim. Despite increasing critical attention in international poetry reviews, Rabearivelo was never afforded access to the elite social circles of colonial Madagascar. He suffered a series of personal and professional disappointments, including the death of his daughter, the French authorities' decision to exclude him from the list of exhibitors at the Universal Exposition in Paris, and growing debt worsened by his philandering and opium addiction. Following Rabearivelo's suicide by cyanide poisoning in 1937, he became viewed as a colonial martyr.

The death of Rabearivelo occurred just prior to the emergence of the ''Négritude'' movement, by which time the Malagasy poet had established an international reputation among literary figures such as Léopold Sédar Senghor as Africa's first modern poet. The Government of Madagascar declared Rabearivelo its national poet upon independence in 1960. The legacy and influence of his works continue to be felt and his works are a focus of ongoing academic study. Modern Malagasy poets and literary figures including Elie Rajaonarison have cited him as a major inspiration. A street and a high school in Antananarivo have been named after him, as has a dedicated room in the National Library of Madagascar. Provided by Wikipedia

by Rabearivelo, Jean-Joseph
Published 1975