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Le bal du dodo

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Le bal du dodo by Geneviève Dormann is the story of French colonisers as they set sails to discover L'Isle de France, now Mauritius. Dormann, born in France wanted to tell the stories of these 4000 ancestors who travelled to Isle de France in the 18th century.


As I opened the book, I saw the date I wrote on the cover- 07/04/2000. I bought this book in Mauritius, 3 months before arriving to Australia, over 20 years ago. Re-reading it now felt so new! I know I read this book on the plane but I had no recollection of the protagonists or plot... Bénie and Vivian- an impossible love.



Le bal du dodo is a bit different from the stories that I am usually drawn to. Though Dormann is born in France, she beautifully paints the landscape and essence of Mauritius, not only that of the French descendants but also glimpses into the lives, culture and intricacies of a medley of people from elsewhere.

Personne ne savait au juste d'où sortait cette madame Céré, sauf une dame d'autrefois qui avait invente cette langue pour converser secrètement avec un poisson rouge...
No one knew where Madam Céré was from, apart that she was a lady from another time who invented a language to talk to the red fish...

To know the language of Madam Céré, you first need to speak fluently Creole and then use a code to create a new dialect, easy! Simply add the letter 'g' after each syllable. For example, Mo Zistwar in Mauritian Creole will translate as Mogo Zisgis/twargwar in Madame Céré language. Okay okay, it's a bit more complex!



In Le bal du dodo, Dormann brings us back and forth from the 18th century to now, mixing and shaking the stories that would unfold for generations to come. Dormann mentioned that Mauritian people only enjoy stories that are set in Mauritius because it gratifies their vanity. This may be true but when done right, you can almost smell the bazar in Port-Louis and hear the waves in Tamarin.




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