Senior Lecturer and Former Olympic Qualifier Publishes First Book

By Laila Rashid, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
March 16, 2015

Christine Duvergé has been teaching French language, literature, and culture courses at UCR since 2000. Born in the country of Mauritius, a Francophone island nation off of the southeast coast of Africa, she came to the US when she was 18 and attended Michigan State University on a track and field scholarship. After majoring in French in undergrad, she made the difficult decision to forgo participating in the Olympics and pursue a career in academia instead. “I wanted to pursue something that I would be able to do forever, and literature gave me the fulfillment I needed,” she said.

Duvergé earned her masters in French at Michigan State and her Ph.D. in French at University of Arizona. Between 2010 and 2012, she took creative writing classes at UCR, which put her in touch with respected professors such as Chris Abani, Goldberry Long, and Susan Straight. “They all helped me understand how to craft a novel, but I realized writing in English was not for me,” she said.

Her first novel, titled Camp Agonie, was published in October 2014. Dr. Heidi Brevik-Zender, associate professor of French and comparative literature and director of the French program at UCR, describes Duvergé’s debut novel as a “compelling story of a young woman's early struggles against poverty and domestic violence and the ways in which her past haunts her as an adult trying to escape from early traumas.” The novel, written in French, is set in both Duvergé’s home country of Mauritius, and in present-day California. It explores themes of jealousy, forgiveness, love, choices, family, and generations.

The story was originally written in English between 2011 and 2012, until Duvergé decided to translate it into French in the summer of 2013. That fall she submitted the manuscript to publishing houses in Mauritius and found it published a year later. Duvergé recently finished a second manuscript, which is currently in the editing process. Since last fall, she has been writing autobiographical essays by looking at her past in segments with one question she aims to ask or answer in each one. Her next novel, L’Aube d’Ariane, tells the story of a woman in search of her origins after she attempted suicide, and will be out this fall.

When asked about the importance of Duvergé and her work to UCR, Brevik-Zender stated, “she is deeply dedicated to her students and devotes herself to helping them not only in their studies of French but also in their intellectual and personal development inside and outside the classroom. Among other things she brings to CHASS and UCR a global perspective, specifically her first-hand knowledge of the concerns of Mauritius, a country often underrepresented even in Francophone studies and one that takes center stage in Camp Agonie.”

In July, Duvergé will be returning to Mauritius for the first time in eight years, and looks forward to seeing her family and having the opportunity to talk about her work concretely in the community.


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