Banaras in the Indian Ocean: Circulating, Connecting and Creolizing Island Stories

Srilata Ravi


What links Bernardin de Saint Pierre’s 1788 novel about Isle de France, Paul et Virginie, with V.S. Naipaul’s 1972 piece, An overcrowded Barracoon? What is common to Joseph Conrad’s 1910 novella, A Smile of Fortune, and tourist brochures of La Grande Baie? What brings together the story of the ruins of Babylon and the Ghats of the Ganges? Actually, these seemingly disjointed narratives make up a vast library of inter-connecting Indian Ocean island stories. In this study I will use the image of ‘Banaras’ as the locus of an inter-textual reading exercise connecting the literary spaces of Mauritian writer and filmmaker Barlen Pyamootoo with other stories like those mentioned above. Pyamootoo’s literary universe reveals to us the dynamic, multilayered and polyphonic nature of Indian Ocean island cultures.


Indian Ocean, Mauritius, Creolisation, Francophone Literatures

Full Text:



Aschcroft, B. 2001, Postcolonial Transformations. Routledge, London.

Aumeerally, N.L. 2005a, 'Tiger in Paradise: Reading Global Mauritius in Shifting Time and Space, ' Journal of African Cultural Studies, vol. 17, no. 2: 161180.

Aumeerally, N.L. 2005b, 'The Ambivalence of Postcolonial Mauritius: Policy versus Practice in Education: A Reading of Official and Popular Multiculturalism, ' International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol.11, no. 3: 30723.

Boswell, R. 2006, Le Malaise Creole: Ethnic Identity in Mauritius. Berghahn Books, New York.

Bowman, L. 1991, Mauritius: Democracy and Development in the Indian Ocean. Westview Press, London.

Conrad, J. 1910. A Smile of Fortune. Online, available: . (Accessed 30 August 2011).

Eck, D. 1982, Banaras, City of Lights. Knopf, New York.

Eisenlohr, P.K. 2006, 'The Politics of Diaspora and the Morality of Secularism: Muslim Identities and Islamic Authority in Mauritius, ' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 12: 395412.

Eisenlohr, P.K. 2007, Little India, Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Eriksen, T.H. 1990, Communicating Cultural Difference and Identity: Ethnicity and Nationalism in Mauritius. University of Oslo Press, Oslo.

Eriksen, T.H. 2007, 'Creolization in Anthropological Theory and in Mauritius, ' in Creolization, History, Ethnography, Theory, (ed.) C. Stewart, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 15377.

Glissant, E. 1981, Le discours antillais. Seuil, Paris.

Hazareesingh, K. 1966, 'The Religion and Culture of the Indian Immigrants in Mauritius and the Effect of Social Change, ' Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 8, no. 2: 24157.

Lionnet, F. 2003, 'Creole Vernacular Theatre: Transcolonial Translations in Mauritius, ' Modern Language Notes (MLN), vol. 118: 91132.

Mige, Jean-Louis 1986, Indentured Labour in the Indian Ocean and the Particular Case of Mauritius. University of Leiden, Leiden.

Miles, W.F. S. 2000, 'The Politics of Language Equilibrium in a Multilingual Society: Mauritius, ' Comparative Politics, vol. 32, no. 2: 21530.

Naipaul, V.S. 1972, The Overcrowded Barracoon and Other Articles. Deutsch, London.

Prabhu, A. 2005, 'Representations in Mauritian Politics: Who Speaks for African Pasts, ' International Journal for Francophone Studies, vol. 8, no. 2: 18397.

Pyamootoo, Barlen 1999, Bnars. Editions de l'Olivier, Paris.

Pyamootoo, Barlen. 2002, Le tour de Baylone. Editions de l'Olivier, Paris.

Pyamootoo, Barlen. 2004, Benares and In Babylon, (trans.) Will Hobson. Canongate, Edinburgh.

Pyamootoo, Barlen. 2005, Bnars, France. 75 mins. Colour. Mauritian Creole. Prod. Artcam International. Distr. Pyramide International.

Pyamootoo, Barlen. 2008, Salogi's. Editions de l'Olivier, Paris.

Racault, Jean Michel 2007, Mmoires du grand ocan: des relations de voyages aux littratures francophones de l'ocan indien. Presses Paris Sorbonne, Paris.

Ravi, S. 2007, Rainbow Colors: Literary Ethno-topographies of Mauritius. Lexington Books, Lanham.

Ravi, S. 2010, 'Between words and images: a comparative study of Barlen Pyamootoo's Bnars and its film adaptation, ' International Journal of Francophone Studies, vol. 13, nos. 3 & 4, 40116.

Rushdie, S. 1990, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Granta, London.

Stewart, C.s 2007, Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory. Left Coast Press, California.

Twain, M. 1897, Following the Equator. Chapter 50, Online, available: (Accessed 29 November 2011).

Vaughan, M. 2006, Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Vergs, F. 2007, 'Indian-Oceanic Creolizations: Processes and Practices of Creolization on Reunion Island, ' in CreolizationHistory, Ethnography, Theory, (ed.) C. Stewart, Left Coast Press, California, 13352.

Vergs, F. & Marimoutou, C. 2005, Amarres: crolisations india-ocanes. L'Harmattan, Paris.