Mauritius is home to the famous love story of Paul and Virginie, a novel written by the French writer and thinker Jacque-Henri Bernadin de Saint-Pierre. This story is deeply rooted in the Mauritian folklore. Pamplemousses is the home to the statue of Paul and Virginie that has a stone base with Chinese bamboo trees on the background. It is made out of bronze, designed by the Hungarian artist Suzanna Szemok. The statue was unveiled in December 2005 in the courtyard of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
Other than the one in Pamplemousses, you can find another statue over at Curepipe near the town hall. It is a bronze replica of Prosper d’Epinay’s statue.
Another statue can be seen in Rose-Hill as well.
The novel is about the love between a boy and a girl, named Paul and Virginie raised together in Mauritius. Both of their mothers had fled to France after one of them is widowed, and her lover leaves the other one. Since then, Paul and Virginie grew up in this paradise island according to the laws of nature, and free from any corrupting influences.
However, just when they reached adolescence and began to fall in love, Virginie is wooed by her wealthy aunt in France who urges her to come to France with the promise of providing her proper education and making her the heir to a vast fortune.
The story progresses, and Virginie is about to return to Mauritius from France. Paul is very eager to meet her after years of separation. This is where the climax of the novel takes place. It is twist inspired from St. Geran’s shipwreck off the northeastern coast.
In the novel, however, Virginie’s ship undergoes some faults near the shore. Even though Paul swims towards her to rescue her, Virginie’s newly acquired modesty and class stop her from removing the weighty and wealthy European clothes in front of the male sailors of the ship and because of which, she drowns in the sea. Overwhelmed with grief and loss, Paul eventually dies with a broken heart.
The story of Paul and Virginie continue to be the inspiration for various paintings and other forms of arts in the modern era. A 1980 Hollywood cult movie named ‘Blue Lagoon’ starring Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields is based on this love story. The tale of Paul and Virginie is a tropical idyll of carefree innocence in Mauritius, and their names are relatable all across the island.
There is a monument at Poudre d’Or on the northeastern coast of Mauritius, the place where the shipwreck of St. Geran took place. The monument is dedicated to all the lives lost in that disastrous shipwreck, accounting to nearly 149 sailors, 30 slaves and 13 passengers. The monument becomes immortal in the novel of Bernardin de Saint and hence it is commonly known as the “Paul et Virginie” monument.
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