THE MYTH OF PAUL AND VIRGINIE IN THREE FRANCOPHONE NOVELS OF THE INDIAN OCEAN
Ex oriente lux? From the Southern Tropics in any case, since certain myths from former times, forgotten and buried under indifference, come back to us rejuvenated and transformed. In this article, we treat one myth — ‘myth’ given the extent of its cultural hypertext — which arose, strangely but almost necessarily, in an ancient French colony: the Île-de-France (Mauritius). It may seem fairly obvious that Paul and Virginie (hero and heroine of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s eponymous novel) should have returned to haunt the literature of the Île-de-France and her “sister island”, La Réunion. We examine three novels: the first transcribes the idyllic couple in terms of a realism based on a form of local colour (Georges Azéma, Noëlla, 1874). The second ends up destroying the pastoral eclogue of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (Loys Masson, Les Noces de la vanille, 1962, English title: The Overseer). The third novel, Le Chercheur d’or by J.M.G. Le Clézio (1985, English title: The Collector), abandons the island setting in order to preserve the myth. Whether colonial or postcolonial, the old myth, dressed in new clothes, invites us to a dialogue between different centuries and different cultures.