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Is Multiculturalism Bad for Art? Carl de Souza's La Maison qui marchait vers Ie large and the Mauritian City Shawkat M. Toorawa CARL DE SOUZA WAS BORN IN ROSE HILL, MAURITIUS, on March 4, 1949. After a peripatetic primary school education, which included a stint on the Mauritian island dependency of Rodrigues, de Souza was admitted to Royal College, Port Louis, and then to the prestigious Royal College Curepipe. He read Biology at the University of London and decided to become an educator. After 25 years of teaching at the Collège St. Esprit, he was in 1995 named Rector of St. Mary's College in Rose Hill, the town of his birth, a position he still holds. Carl de Souza has also excelled in sports. He was a national badminton player for many years before being named manager of the national team, President of the Mauritius Badminton Federation, and Secretary-General of the African Badminton Federation. Late into his careers in pedagogy and competitive sports, de Souza decided to become a writer. His first published work, a short story entitled "La comète de Halley," won the Mauritian Prix Piene Renaud in 1986. In 1993 another short story, "Le raccourci," was published in Paris. That same year, his first novel, Le Sang de l'Anglais, won the international francophone prize, Prix de 1 ' ACCT, and an accompanying publishing contract in France. ' Heartened by the critical reaction to this novel, de Souza embarked on another, and in 1996 the Paris-based Le Serpent à Plume Editions published La Maison qui marchait vers Ie large.2 La Maison went on to win the regional Prix des Mascareignes, and the following year the French government made de Souza Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts at des Lettres. In 2000, he published Les Jours de Kaya? Le Sang de l'Anglais is, as the title implies, preoccupied with filiation, genealogies, and the role of ethnicities, contested or otherwise, in the construction of identity. The Maison of the title of his second novel is a real house in which people who are negotiating difficult issues of identity must live and, more importantly, live together. It is a house faced with real problems, so it is also a metaphor for Mauritius the island, a minor of the city of Port-Louis, and, if I may be permitted this word play, of ethni-city. As a metaphor for the city, it thus becomes a space which allows all the characters that inhabit it to be linked together in an unstable relationship where the ground on which they stand is a slippery one. Indeed, de Souza does not build the Mauritian city, he Vol. XLI, No. 3 197 L'Esprit Créateur dismantles it and sends its emblem sliding toward the sea where, presumably, it will be transformed. I would like to argue that La Maison is a signal multicultural text—though I am less attached to the term multiculturalism per se than to what it implies. The Mauritian playwright Dev Virahsawmy has been a strong advocate of multiculturalism for more than three decades through his Kreol plays and adaptations, and Edouard Maunick, whose Muse is a blend of African, European and Indianoceanic influences, is something of a multicultural Mauritian poet laureate (if one can be that when one is in self-imposed exile). But it is de Souza who brings together literature, culture, and issues of "policy." In La Maison, these issues may be said to collide, collude, and simultaneously result on the one hand in a successful novel and, on the other, in a projection, a formula , almost a blueprint for citizenry, and therefore for the city and for ethnicity .4 Maybe this is to be expected from someone whose educational, intellectual , civic, and cultural background is multiple and plural. Curiously, Mauritian critics expressed disapproval and disapprobation for La Maison. De Souza was accused of stereotyping characters.5 And, the argument went, if it was not bad enough that he had, like so many others, published overseas (an unfair attack as he lives and works in Mauritius, unlike a number of other Francophone Mauritian writers), he had now produced a novel that tokenized, in that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 197-206
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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