World Cup of Literature: Madagascar vs Mexico

Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, and as of 2018 home to 26.26 Million inhabitants. The island nation lies off the south-east coast of Africa, the continent which gave us man. Madagascar is known for its abundance of native flora and fauna, though it may become known for more at the end of this years World Cup of Literature. The Malagasy people became independent from their French colonisers in 1960 and has since developed a strong economy based off of Tourism, Spices, Clothing and Seafood.

Naivo has delivered strong form for Madagascar as he tells the tale of the government and systematic corruption, money laundering and political instability which exists within Malagasy society. His short story ‘The Conspiracists’ starts off by introducing us to a world of scandals from the unknown; though Naivo paints no pretty picture of his island homeland, he gives us an unobstructed insight of his nation. The story is played out between two main characters, the unnamed Protagonist (who could in fact be based on Naivo himself) and police commissioner Anatole Rabe; we witness a short series of events from the protagonists perspective, the difficult meeting with Rabe, the evening in the tavern, and the short times in between. Our protagonist has been conned into handing over large sums of money to a supposed ‘influential’ adviser and must seek aid from friend of her uncle, Commissioner Rabe. This leads to the pair discussing the corrupt politics that exist within Madagascar as well as the threat of revolution and the watchful government eye that comes with it. Naivo finished off the story with an array of false pretenses that leave us wondering what is really going on in this society barely holding together?

Naivo doesn’t introduce us to the idea that those in power are susceptible to abusing it but takes this further to a level that most of us would not be familiar with. Though Madagascar is one of Africa’s many nations it doesn’t quite fit the view that we in the west have given the continent, one of malnutrition and impoverishment, but rather one that is similar to our own yet flawed in different ways. Australia’s government though ever changing is stable and the nation is one of the least corrupt in the world; yet Naivo introduces us to a country with a similar population and climate to our own in which ordinary people just like you and me are constantly monitored and quietly suppressed. Though these people live similar lives to us they are also different in many ways.

Mexico is North America’s third largest country by size and the second largest by population. Mexico is the worlds largest Spanish speaking nation and has an incredibly large population of over 125 Million people. Mexican culture has developed over many millennia from the first settlers, to the Olmecs and to the pioneering Aztecs. Since the Spanish Conquista Mexico has closer followed European Culture but has still retained much of its native tradition unlike its neighbours (the USA and Canada) to the north. With such a high population and a nation known throughout the literature world fpr its famous writers of the past century such as José Emilio Pacheco and Carlos Fuentes they should provide a strong challenge for Naivo’s Madagascar.

Yuri Herrera delivers his story ‘By the Power Vested in Me’, a reliable contender to the World Cup of Literature. The story follows Romero, a single man attending a wedding of two he does not appear to know very well. Romero is introduced as a man who has recently passed his prime and could now be called middle-aged yet he still remains single. Romero though finds himself sitting at a table with just one other man though as the story progresses, a widowed man who is distantly familiar to the main character. Romero believes that the deceased wife of this middle-aged man is the man whom he was dumped for by his lover; the man is described as despicable by Romero, yet just a short time later it is revealed that perhaps Romero is despicable, when he leaves him choking in the corner. The story is completed with Romero finding another he may be able to love, but the audience are left pondering if it will truly be to any avail.

Herrera’s story does not provide a lot of context into society and life within Mexico as it is confined to the tales of one wedding. It appears though that in the nation people marry young and once they pass their prime they remain longing for the younger generation. Herrera speaks of an issue with drugs in the society but does not create much of an image of the daily livelihoods and any other problems faced by the people. We learn that wedding culture is similar to ours and maybe we’re all not so different but little else is acknowledged throughout the story. ‘By the Power Vested in Me’ provides little insight into Mexican Culture, but maybe makes us realise Mexico is just like every other country and the way we live our lives is so similar to theirs.

From the first whistle this match-up was dominated so much by Naivo’s Madagascar; the story better explores societies flaws in a much more compelling way for the reader and gives us better insight into how other nations operate — how similar yet how distant they are to our own way of life. This opening match-up of the World Cup of Literature was almost as dominant as Germany’s FIFA world cup demolition of Brazil in 2014; Madagascar 6 defeat Mexico 1.