Novels set in Mauritius: Explore the island through Mauritian literature in English

novels set in mauritius

Recently, Mauritius celebrated its literature at the annual Book Festival of Trou d’Eau Douce. If you have chosen to make Mauritius your home,  there’s no better way to deepen your connection with Mauritius than by exploring its literature. To help you uncover the cultural treasures, historical tapestries, and the vibrant essence of this nation, we’ve thoughtfully compiled a list of remarkable novels set in Mauritius and written by Mauritian authors. These books are not just tales; they are windows into the reality of Mauritians across generations and ethnicities.  This diverse list curated by a professor of literature in Mauritius provides an excellent starting point to immerse yourself in the country’s rich literary tradition and gain diverse perspectives—a journey that will reveal the heart of Mauritian culture, history, and the incredible people that shape its narrative.

Credit Photo : Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

5 Remarkable novels set in Mauritius (in English)

"Riambel" by Priya Hein

“Riambel is the debut novel by Priya Hein, the winner of the 2021 Jean Fanchette Prize. This book, which can be read in just a few hours, tells the tragic and violent story of a teenager from the cité who becomes a maid for a Franco-Mauritian family. This book offers a compelling and eye-opening glimpse into the lives of people residing in the slums of Mauritius.

“Fifteen-year-old Noemi has no choice but to leave school and work in the house of the wealthy De Grandbourg family. Just across the road from the slums where she grew up, she encounters a world that is starkly different from her own ­– yet one which would have been all too familiar to her ancestors. Bewitched by a pair of green eyes and haunted by echoes, her life begins to mirror those of girls who have gone before her.

Within Noemi’s lament is also the herstory of Mauritius; the story of women who have resisted arrest, of teachers who care for their poorest pupils and encourage them to challenge traditional narratives, of a flawed Paradise undergoing slow but unstoppable change.

In Riambel, Priya Hein invites us to protest, to rail against longstanding structures of class and ethnicity. She shows us a world of natural enchantment contrasted with violence and the abuse of power. This seemingly simple tale of servitude, seduction and abandonment blisters with a fierce sense of injustice.”

novel set in mauritius - riambel

"Blood Red Sweat" by Abhimanyu Unnuth

Blood-red Sweat chronicles the burgeoning political consciousness of indentured laborers in pre-Independence Mauritius. Written originally in Hindi by the Mauritian poet and author Abhimanyu Unnuth, it is the first part of the trilogy “Lal Paseena,” his masterpiece published in 1974. The gripping novel, lauded with multiple prestigious awards, tackles the social issues faced by indentured laborers back at the time, including inequality, corruption, and abuse of power. 

Slavery may be over, but plantation life continues-and for the Indians lured to Mauritius with the promise of gold under every stone, freedom is a distant memory. For village dreamer Kissan, freedom is worth fighting for-and when he meets former soldier and runaway convict Kundan, the two men encourage their community of indentured labourers to fight for their rights. With Kundan’s experience and Kissan’s charisma, the immigrants begin to hope for a future unterrorised by the plantocracy. They begin to hope for a life in which they can maintain their culture without subterfuge-and for Kissan, at the cusp of adulthood, for a life in which he can be with his love, the valiant Rekha, without fear. But revolution isn’t easy, and on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, nature waits for no one: hard-fought gains are washed away by colonial politics, by internecine struggle, by cyclones.
Blood-red Sweat is not a historical novel, and it is not history, because its characters are not the kings, governors, or any other statesmen who usually feature in historical novels. Instead, its characters are brave, and devoted to the land that eventually crushed them between the millstones of history.
Blood-red Sweat is a saga for the ages, its demonstration of the power of community, a beacon for us all in the contemporary world.”
novels set in mauritius - blood red sweat

The Prospector by J.M.G. Le Clézio

“The Prospector” by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio, first published in French in 1985, is an adventure story set in Mauritius, where Le Clezio has roots and a home. The novel captures the beauty of the island and simultaneously explores the impact of foreign exploitation on the land, shedding light on the dark side of “civilization.” Through its narrative, readers can learn about Mauritius’ rich history, its connection to nature, and the challenges it faces from commercial interests, particularly in the sugarcane fields worked by underpaid locals.

The Prospector is the crowning achievement from one of France’s preeminent novelists and a work rich with sensuality and haunting resonance. It is the turn of the century on the island of Mauritius, and young Alexis L’Etang enjoys an idyllic existence with his parents and beloved sister: sampling the pleasures of privilege, exploring the constellations and tropical flora, and dreaming of treasure buried long ago by the legendary Unknown Corsair.

But with his father’s death, Alexis must leave his childhood paradise and enter the harsh world of privation and shame. Years later, Alexis has become obsessed with the idea of finding the Corsair’s treasure and, through it, the lost magic and opulence of his youth. He abandons job and family, setting off on a quest that will take him from remote tropical islands to the hell of World War I, and from a love affair with the elusive Ouma to a momentous confrontation with the search that has consumed his life.

By turns harsh and lyrical, pointed and nostalgic, The Prospector is “a parable of the human condition” (Le Monde) by one of the most significant literary figures in the world today.

the prospector best novels set in mauritius

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

“The Last Brother” by Nathacha Appanah, a Mauritian writer of Indian descent, unveils a lesser-known chapter in Mauritius’ history. Published in 2007 and translated into English by Geoffrey Strachan, this poignant novel explores the heartfelt friendship between two young boys against the backdrop of 1,500 Jewish refugees seeking refuge in Mauritius during World War II.

In The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, 1944 is coming to a close and nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a mysterious boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles whose harrowing journey took them from Nazi occupied Europe to Palestine, where they were refused entry and sent on to indefinite detainment in Mauritius.

A massive storm on the island leads to a breach of security at the camp, and David escapes, with Raj’s help. After a few days spent hiding from Raj’s cruel father, the two young boys flee into the forest. Danger, hunger, and malaria turn what at first seems like an adventure to Raj into an increasingly desperate mission.

This unforgettable and deeply moving novel sheds light on a fascinating and unexplored corner of World War II history, and establishes Nathacha Appanah as a significant international voice.”

The last brother - novels set in mauritius

The Coral Heart - A shopkeeper's journey by Peggy Lampotang

“Coral Heart” by the Mauritian author Peggy Lampotang, originally written in English, offers a narrative that delves into the historical and cultural complexities of Mauritius through the lens of Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. This poignant family saga follows the journey of a young Hakka Chinese immigrant who navigates the challenges of building a life in Mauritius, facing racial divisions, and falling in love against the backdrop of significant historical events like the overthrow of the Chinese Emperor, the rise of communism, and the world wars. 

“In 1911, impoverished Hakka Chinese immigrants arrive on the tropical island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Among the newcomers, a hungry child. The hard-working boy helps his father, a shopkeeper and surrenders his earnings to him according to Chinese tradition. While he serves the islanders, the young man ingeniously builds the business, negotiates his way through racial divisiveness, and falls in love. But his trust in the old system is put to test …

This work of fiction, inspired by letters from the author’s father, unfolds during the overthrow of the Chinese Emperor, the rise of communism, the Japanese invasion of China, and the First and Second World Wars.”

Coral Heart novels set in mauritius
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