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  • Farzeen Heesambee

Did Mark Twain really say this about Mauritius?

Google, the best educational tool invented! If we want to find the truth, many of us rely on Google.

As proud Mauritians, we want to feel valued, to feel that we are better than the rest of the world. Often when asked where we are from, we would say Mauritius proudly and refer to Mark Twain.

Googling Mark Twain’s quote in Mauritius, this is what you get:

Thousands of results stating, “Mauritius was created first, then heaven and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.”

It gives us a sense of pride- we are better than Paradise.

Unfortunately, this is far from the truth and the Mauritian reality is quite the opposite.

The quote itself is misleading as it is being misquoted, I guess the first Mauritian who came across this decided it was better to cut off some important parts of the quote in order to make himself/herself feel better, in other words, give oneself a false sense of pride.

We all want to recognition, albeit if it is through lies, and many has changed History in order to fit lies that make themselves ( and their descendants), let’s not forget nepotism exist in Mauritius, appear as heroes whilst they might be villains. There are so many lies we have been taught are ‘truths’. For example, after reading a couple of posts written by Mauritians or travel bloggers who got it from Mauritians, we most likely would end up believing this is exactly what Mark Twain said, this is just one example of the many lies we have been told for generations, some of which have entered History in the form of written facts.

Coming back to the quote, Mark Twain actually said and the proof can be found in his travelogue, Following the Equator:

April 18 1896.

This is the only country in the world where the stranger is not asked "How do you like this place?" This is indeed a large distinction. Here the citizen does the talking about the country himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius. Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration; that the two chief villages, Port Louis and Curepipe, fall short of heavenly perfection; that nobody lives in Port Louis except upon compulsion, and that Curepipe is the wettest and rainiest place in the world.

April 23 1896.

What there is of Mauritius is beautiful. You have undulating wide expanses of sugar-cane—a fine, fresh green and very pleasant to the eye; and everywhere else you have a ragged luxuriance of tropic vegetation of vivid greens of varying shades, a wild tangle of underbrush, with graceful tall palms lifting their crippled plumes high above it; and you have stretches of shady dense forest with limpid streams frolicking through them, continually glimpsed and lost and glimpsed again in the pleasantest hide-and-seek fashion; and you have some tiny mountains, some quaint and picturesque groups of toy peaks, and a dainty little vest-pocket Matterhorn; and here and there and now and then a strip of sea with a white ruffle of surf breaks into the view.

That is Mauritius; and pretty enough. The details are few, the massed result is charming, but not imposing; not riotous, not exciting; it is a Sunday landscape. Perspective, and the enchantments wrought by distance, are wanting. There are no distances; there is no perspective, so to speak. Fifteen miles as the crow flies is the usual limit of vision. Mauritius is a garden and a park combined. It affects one's emotions as parks and gardens affect them. The surfaces of one's spiritual deeps are pleasantly played upon, the deeps themselves are not reached, not stirred. Spaciousness, remote altitudes, the sense of mystery which haunts apparently inaccessible mountain domes and summits reposing in the sky—these are the things which exalt the spirit and move it to see visions and dream dreams.

Just wanted to point out as I have seen many people misquoting this and I have done so in the past myself. Mark Twain never said Mauritius was made first, then heaven. He actually said the impression given by Mauritians (who some Englishmen may class as primitive and uneducated) is that Mauritius was created first then heaven. So, he was actually quoting Mauritians who probably had nothing to be proud of. Obviously, this quote serves the purpose of perpetuating paradise and putting us on the world map. We need to remember that Mauritius relies on tourism and selling ‘lies’ is imbedded in this. This is the lie we have not only sold to others but have been telling ourselves for generations. Paradise is ‘natural’, what is natural about Mauritius? When Mauritius was a Dutch colony, the dodo disappeared, the French and the Brits enforced the deforestation of ebony trees and the social and environmental destruction of enslaved people and indentured labourers. And to finish off the neo-colonial govts gave away our somewhat ‘unblemished’ Diego Garcia and Agalega.

Yours Mauritiusly,




Twain, Mark, Following the Equator:

Pp. 609-629.

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