It’s no wonder Mauritius has been a muse for generations of writers, said Claire Wrathall in the Financial Times. Located some 500 miles east of Madagascar, this “speck of a nation,” no bigger than greater London, is a veritable “blueprint for paradise.” Cradled by the warm Indian Ocean, the still largely untouched island is a place of natural opulence and the “omnipresence of vibrant, vivid” color. Chamarel Falls is flanked by the sandy pink, violet, and yellow remnants of prehistoric volcanic eruptions, while the turquoise sea “deepens from aquamarine in the shallows to indigo.” The jade sugar cane fields frame each day’s “Technicolor sunsets and roseate dawns.”
English-language authors first discovered Mauritius in the late 19th century, after Britain acquired the colony from France. Mark Twain wrote about it in his travelogue Following the Equator and based his description of the Garden of Eden in his Diaries of Adam and Eve on its “brown rocks, yellow sand, gray moss, green foliage, blue sky, the pearl of the dawn, the purple shadows of the mountains.” Around the same time, Joseph Conrad turned his visit to what is now Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden into the novella A Smile of Fortune. The garden’s thousands of plants—ancient baobabs, sacred ficus, and Victoria water lilies—remain a “must-see.” Charles Darwin, who said Mauritius possessed an “air of perfect elegance,” has a lush garden named after him there.
But it is the French, who have been settling there since the early 18th century, who have devoted the most literature to the island. In Les Fleurs de Mal, Charles Baudelaire, who lived in the village of Pamplemousses, describes Mauritius as a “perfumed country that the sun caresses.” More recently Barlen Pyamootoo, the son of a native Mauritian, earned comparisons to Beckett and Faulkner for his French-language novel Bénarès, which chronicles two friends’ journey to the capital, Port Louis. Just 35 kilometers away sits the Prince Maurice, the only hotel in the world to award a prize for romance fiction. It’s an open invitation to aspiring writers to continue to celebrate the island’s glorious beauty in words.