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Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


The last months of 1886 and the first of 1887, a curious personage appears in Antananarivo. It is Marius Cazeneuve, conjurer and illusionist, whose stay in the capital is known through his
“Amazing Book” entitled At the Court of Madagascar: Magic and Diplomacy. He gave himself the fine part to the risk of
To disguise reality, says Jean Valette (archivist-paleographer). It is true that Cazeneuve presents himself no less than “the doctor and counselor of the Queen of Madagascar, Ranavalo Manjaka”.
When he comes to Antananarivo, as he himself explains, his aim is simply to implement “an interesting and patriotic project”.
And to clarify: “Knowing that the Queen loved all that relates to magic, I had thought that, by means of my
Skill of conjurer, skill about which I do not have to make modesty since it has been many times
I had thought, I said, that I could act upon the mind of His Majesty and dispose it favorably for France. Needless to say, I had no other end than the good of my country. “
Criticizing the work, Jean Valette asserts that, first of all, the cocardier tone is marked by a violent Anglophobia; Second, that it provides little interesting information, “most
Descriptions appearing from the work of Ida Pfeiffer written twenty years earlier “; And that, tertio, “it swarms with errors, improbabilities.”
In sum, Jean Valette summarizes, “a work of little interest that merited merely to fall into oblivion.”
But an illustrious novelist decides to take inspiration from the Memoirs of Cazeneuve and to make him the hero of his book, “Le Commandeur”. A title that, according to him, his character would have received from Ranavalona III “itself to reward him for his services”. Pierre Benoît even imagines “unavowable relations” between the queen and her hero.
The latter, according to his assertions in his work, does not content himself with presenting to the queen his talents as a conjurer. He succeeded in getting himself admitted as a royal physician. “Hence, as he pretended, he had but one step to take to become the intimate counselor of the queen of Madagascar and to try to implement the famous patriotic project which had brought him to Antananarivo, Adds Jean Valette.
Cazeneuve indicates that he arrives without too much difficulty to his ends, breaking English influence with the queen. To get there, he has to talk privately and on several occasions with Ranavalona and he makes no secret of it. “When the Prime Minister was absent especially, what happened sometimes, we were alone, with no witnesses other than his lady of honor and Marc Rabibisoa who was devoted to him; She spoke to me with great abandon … “Or:” One day I was completely alone with the queen … “Or:” I had already had several secret interviews with the queen (…) “
Cazeneuve, who evokes a somewhat dubious blood tie (fatidrà) between the queen and himself, wishes to clarify: “It would be, for a man and a woman who would have sworn fadditrah, to commit a sacrilege to conceive other feelings Than those of a brotherly and pure friendship. “
Nevertheless, in spite of all these details, in order to spell out his novel, for “he needed a few scenes of love”, Pierre Benoît does not hesitate to make Cazeneuve anything less than the queen’s lover and, In fact the father of a child of Ranavalona III!
A “bad act” of Pierre Benoît knowingly committed, accuses Jean Valette. “He was not unaware of the obligations resulting from the fatidrà as reported by Cazeneuve … For nothing in the life of the Queen or in the Memoirs of Cazeneuve allowed her to tarnish the memory of this A young woman whose end of life, the loss of her kingdom, and exile should, on the contrary, generate pity. “