Journal of Romance Studies

Coming to terms with the past? The controversial issue of slavery in contemporary Mauritian fiction

Journal of Romance Studies (2014), 14, (2), 5–19.

Abstract

Among the innovative aesthetic, thematic and poetic perspectives that can be observed, since the early 1990s, in a young generation of Francophone writers on Mauritius, one can find investments in the multiple and conflicting pasts of the island. Yet a look at recent literary production reveals that the period of slavery and the figure of the slave are almost absent, apart from one text – Terre d’orages (2003) by Serge Ng Tat Chung. Clearly, the paradigm of slavery has less ‘symbolic capital’ in literary representation (and society as a whole) than other Mauritian pasts, notably indenture. Conferring on literature a crucial role in portraying and negotiating this issue, this article interrogates this absence/presence of slavery in recent Mauritian prose fiction. With regard to the island’s complex constructions and performances of memory, it will discuss the veiled longue durée of this ‘foundational violence’ and lay particular emphasis on the merits and pitfalls of Tat Chung’s novel.

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Arnold, Markus