If you are a bibliophile with a serious case of wanderlust, it takes more than sunblock and sunglasses to get you through your holiday. Chances are, books are the only thing you would take with you on a deserted island. Well, here you are, on a tropical island, with blocks of uninterrupted reading time, and no real page turners (at the very best, a magazine and a book you picked up at the airport). You’re in luck – Mauritius has a strong literary culture. Here are our recommendations of books to devour:
The Classic: Paul et Virginie – Bernardin de Saint-Pierre
The novel, a French classic, recounts the tale of the two star-crossed lovers, Paul and Virginie, whose love is troubled by the shipwreck of the St Geran off the north-east coast of Mauritius (a fact!) A monument stands in Poudre d’Or to commemorate the 149 sailors, 13 passengers and 30 slaves of the sunken ship. Guests staying at the Veranda Paul et Virginie are a step away from Poudre d’Or, the lovely seaside village.
The Classic, Revisited: Paul et Virginie, d’après le roman de Bernardin de Saint-Pierre – Shenaz Patel
One of the island’s prominent women writers published a comic book, “Paul et Virginie, d’après le roman de Bernardin de Saint-Pierre,” illustrated by the Mauritian cartoonist Laval Ng. The book makes for a great gift to take back.
The (Nobel) Prizewinners: Le Chercheur d’Or and Sirandanes – Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
The prolific contemporary writer (a winner of the Nobel prize in literature) set his novel, “Le Chercheur d’Or” in Rodrigues, a territory of Mauritius. “Sirandanes” pays tribute to the poetic riddles that are popular in Mauritius, a custom rooted in African oral tradition. The collection of sirandanes are written in creole and translated by Le Clézio.
The Presidential Read: Plantes Medicinales de Maurice – Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
The biodiversity scientist-turned-President compiled a database of plants of her island. The fascinating read provides an exhaustive list of the island’s flora (many of which you can find in the hotel’s tropical gardens.) The first woman elected President is a recipient of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science.
The Genius: Sens-Plastique – Malcolm de Chazal
De Chazal, one of the greatest Mauritian artists of all times, published “Sens-Plastique,” an odd and original oeuvre that continues to astonish readers. The man with the peculiar sense of style was an illustrious artist, whose childish, bright paintings are an art collector’s dream.
The Insightful: Quartier de Pamplemousses – Alain Gordon-Gentil
Alain Gordon-Gentil is a Mauritian writer, journalist, playwright, and documentary maker who has written extensively about the dailiness of Mauritian life, the nation’s political figures, communities and immigrants. His wit is ever-present in his very first novel, “Quartier de Pamplemousses” (his hometown). After strolling the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, sample a typical Mauritian dish at Tante Athalie, who just happens to be a character of this novel. The restaurant is set in a pretty garden near the old colonial family home.
The Historical: Les Rochers de Poudre d’Or – Nathacha Appanah
The insightful award-winning female writer, Nathacha Appanah, wrote “Les Rochers de Poudre d’Or”, a story set in the colonial era, when the first indentured labourers travelled on the ship, The Atlas, to Mauritius, believing they would find gold. The page-turner is a glimpse of letan margoz (a Creole expression that refers to bitter times, “margoz” meaning “bitter gourd”).
The Storyteller: Citronella: A Story from Mauritius (originally La Tififi Citronnelle) – Carl de Souza
Carl de Souza’s wonderful children’s book narrates the tale of “tififi” (the Creole for “petite fille,” little girl in french). The book is illustrated by the famous Mauritian artist, Danièle Hitié, known for her painstaking stroke and minute detail. She manages to add a little fantasy to otherwise daily scenes. It seems as though her artwork perfectly complement De Souza’s touching story.
The Bestiary: Le Bestiaire Mauricien – Shenaz Patel
The prolific female writer published “Le Bestiaire Mauricien,” a collection of tales that are beautifully illustrated by Emmanuelle Tchoukriel’s intricate drawings. Both the written words and detailed drawings allow the reader to carefully study the island’s fauna and flora.
Some of the greatest writers have alluded to Mauritius including Joseph Conrad (A Smile of Fortune), Amitav Ghosh (A Sea of Poppies), and Gregory David Roberts (Shantaram).