Le Clézio, J. M. G.
J. M. G. Le Clézio 1940-
(Full name Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio) French novelist, short story writer, and essayist.
The following entry presents an overview of Le Clézio's career through 1998. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 31.
Le Clézio achieved instant critical recognition when his first novel, Le Procès-verbal (1963; The Interrogation), published when he was twenty-three, received the prestigious Prix Théophraste Renaudot award. From that time on he has been regarded as one of France's major contemporary literary figures. His works often defy categorization and are not affiliated with any one literary or philosophical movement. Le Clézio's fiction frequently explores metaphysical questions, examining the nature of language as it describes and creates reality. Le Clézio also examines postindustrial life using both traditional storytelling styles and experimental narrative forms, which have proven to be both critically and commercially successful.
Le Clézio was born on April 13, 1940, in Nice, France, to Raoul, a doctor of Mauritian descent, and Simone. Although Le Clézio was primarily raised and educated in France, he spent a portion of his childhood in Nigeria and England. He attended Bristol University and London University, and held a teaching position at the Bath Grammar School in England. He was awarded a license-ès-lettres degree from the University of Nice in 1963, a maîtrise from the University of Aix-en Provence in 1964, and a docteur-ès-lettres from the University of Perpignan in 1983. In 1963 Le Clézio published his critically-acclaimed first novel, Le Procès-verbal. In 1966 Le Clézio served a term of French military service by working as a teacher at the Buddhist University of Bangkok and the University of Mexico. He also spent four years living with Indian tribes in Panama, and has travelled extensively through North and South America and the Indian Ocean. A prolific author and educator, Le Clézio has continued to publish works and has lectured at Boston University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. In addition to the critical honors he received for Le Procès-verbal, Le Clézio has been awarded the Prix Valery Larbaud award from the Bibliotheque Municipale Valery Larbaud in 1972 and the Paul Morand literary prize from the Academie Française in 1980.
Le Clézio's writing style has embraced both traditional narrative structures—particularly the quest or adventure story—and non-traditional, experimental forms. Both his fiction and essays address the devastating effects of urbanization on the natural world and the impact of colonial cultures on indigenous populations. His works also often examine issues of language and creativity. Le Clézio's protagonists are frequently uprooted, lonely drifters from Morocco, Central America, and other diverse locales, who struggle to discover their identities as they bounce from one geographical location to another. In Le Clézio's earlier works, his characters regularly meet grim fates, but in his later novels, his protagonists fare better, with many simply renouncing Western culture and returning to their homelands. In the short story collection La Fièvre (1965; Fever), the main characters wander numbly through modern metropolises, suffering from fevers that provide them with extrasensory perception and enable them to become acutely aware of the human misery that surrounds them. As their illnesses intensify the characters become surreally absorbed into their natural surroundings. Le Livre des fuites (1969; The Book of Flights) similarly focuses on characters in urban settings, including J. H. Hogan, who is questing for knowledge, but finds himself trapped in a limited and man-made environment. In another short story collection, La Ronde et autres faits divers (1982; The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts), Le Clézio's characters attempt to escape their bleak, postindustrial existences, but remain alienated due to the oppressive social order.
Origins and quests, exile and redemption, and colonialism and destruction figure prominently in Désert (1980), Onitsha (1991), Étoile errante (1992; which may be translated as Wandering Star), La Quarantaine (1995; which may be translated as The Quarantine), and Poisson d'or (1997; which may be translated as Golden Fish). Lalla in Désert, Esther and Nejma in Étoile errante, and Laila of Poisson d'or are each forced to leave their homelands against their wills. These young protagonists all experience geographical exile and embark on journeys which mirror their development towards adulthood. Twelve-year-old Fintan in Onitsha becomes part of a British colonial regime in an African city and deals with his feelings of exile as he adjusts to a new language and culture imposed on him by his father. Léon in La Quarantaine experiences isolation and loneliness while living in a quarantine camp on an island near Mauritius. All of these protagonists are desperate for a sense of identity, but despite their best efforts, they remain on the fringes of society. Each of them chooses to reject Western culture and the worship of materialism, deciding instead to return to the lands of their birth in an attempt to find a sense of self. While they wander in exile, Le Clézio's characters often write about their experiences. Le Clézio uses the acts of reading and writing in his narratives to explore the healing and educational powers of the written word. The novel Le Chercheur d'or (1985; The Prospector) and the short story “Awaite Pawana” also focus on journeys, but in these situations the quests are not forced: the characters in these works leave home as a result of their desire for financial gain. In Le Chercheur d'or Alexis follows his late father in search of gold, only to discover that achieving material success proves to be an empty and shallow experience.
Le Clézio has been lauded by several critics for his expertise, storytelling skill, and prodigious imagination. His writings have proven popular with both readers and reviewers, with many of his works becoming best-sellers in France and abroad. Although some commentators have tried to place his prose style into the nouveau roman (“The New Novel”) literary genre, most critics agree that Le Clézio's diverse writing style resists classification. Le Procès-verbal has been praised for its unique portrayal of human sensory experience, although some reviewers have argued that the novel's themes are sterile and unoriginal. Le Clézio has been largely absent from the French literary scene—by his own choice—and a number of critics claim that this distance from his audience contributes to his mysteriousness which has only served to increase Le Clézio's popularity. His novels, in particular, have been noted for including autobiographical elements. His critics have complained that Le Clézio addresses the same basic ideas and characters over and over again in nearly all of his works and have claimed that his books offer little new material while focusing too heavily on Le Clézio's own life.
Le Procès-verbal [The Interrogation] (novel) 1963
La Fièvre [Fever] (short stories) 1965
Le Déluge [The Flood] (novel) 1966
Terra Amata (novel) 1967
Le Livre des fuites: Roman d'adventures [The Book of Flights: An Adventure Story] (novel) 1969
La Guerre [War] (novel) 1970
Les Géants [The Giants] (novel) 1973
L'Inconnu sur la terre (essays) 1978
Mondo et autres histoires (short stories) 1978
Désert (novel) 1980
La Ronde et autres faits divers [The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts] (short stories) 1982
Le Chercheur d'or [The Prospector] (novel) 1985
Printemps et autres saisons (short stories) 1989
Le Réve Mexicain ou la pensée interrompue [The Mexican Dream, or, The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations (essays) 1989
Onitsha (novel) 1991
Étoile errante (novel) 1992
La Quarantaine (novel) 1995
Poisson d'or (novel) 1997
La fête chantée, et autres essais de thème amérindien (essays) 1997
Hasard; suivi de,...
(The entire section is 147 words.)
SOURCE: Oxenhandler, Neal. “Nihilism in Le Clézio's La Fièvre.” In Symbolism and Modern Literature: Studies in Honor of Wallace Fowlie, edited by Marcel Tetel, pp. 264–73. Durham: Duke University Press, 1978.
[In the following essay, Oxenhandler attempts to define the nihilism found in the short stories of La Fièvre.]
We know more about nihilism than we like to think.
—W. J. Dannhauser, from a lecture
Si vous voulez vraiment le savoir, j'aurais ne préféré ne jamais être né.
—J. M. G. Le Clézio, Preface to La Fièvre
The fictions of J. M. G. Le Clézio unfold on a devastated and devastating world. Few other writers in the tradition of Kafka and Sartre have celebrated as powerfully the emptiness of the contemporary cityscape. Numerous images of emptiness are brought into play to convey the reductive power of a nihilistic imagination.
The question I will put to Le Clézio's fiction has to do precisely with the meaning and extent of his nihilism. I wish to pursue this nihilism into various motifs of the stories, seeing what shapes it assumes and how it repeats itself. Once Le Clézio's nihilism has taken shape and substance we will be able to pose the question of its extent or limits....
(The entire section is 4068 words.)
SOURCE: Talbot, Emile J. Review of La Ronde et autres faits divers, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. World Literature Today 57, no. 1 (winter 1983): 62.
[In the following review, Talbot argues that the characters in La Ronde complement the characters found in Le Clézio's Mondo et autres histoires.]
Le Clézio previous collection of short stories, Mondo et autres histoires (1978), celebrated the attainment of a fresh intimacy with the universe by children who were able to bypass the confining world of modern urban life (see WLT 53:2, p. 249), but his latest collection, La Ronde, features characters whose efforts to escape lead only to defeat. The tone is set by the first story, “La Ronde,” a tale of a brief escapade on a motorcycle which ends in tragedy for a teenage girl. The attempts on the part of the central characters in the remaining stories to break out of their confines are similarly frustrated. A fearful, impoverished woman has to give birth unassisted in an overheated mobile home; an escaped convict is retaken after a painful ordeal; a young girl is gang-raped in a low-income housing development; a carefree trip to Italy ends in illness and arrest; a Yugoslav sacrifices everything to enter France illegally only to suffer exploitation there; a Portuguese immigrant has turned to theft to feed his family; a nine-year-old boy's search for his brother leads to crime. Le...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
SOURCE: Roberts, Alan. Review of Le Chercheur d'or, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. World Literature Today 60, no. 1 (winter 1986): 68.
[In the following review, Roberts asserts that Le Chercheur d'or is an enjoyable work if the reader can “accept the emotional wringing” of the central character, Alexis.]
Le Clézio's latest work, Le Chercheur d'or, falls into the category of a neoromantic novel, which may not appeal to today's public. Beautiful description of exotic lands, of travels on small nineteenth-century sailing ships to islands off the east coast of Africa, all overshadowed by the mystery of death, the cruelty of nature, and, above all, the self-pitying loneliness of the narrator, permeate its pages. The reader may wish that Le Clézio had refrained from his tendency toward verbosity in descriptive detail but is grateful for immersion in the picturesque realm of uncultivated nature.
Alexis, the solitary narrator through whose thoughts the reader follows the course of the story, begins by recounting his memories of a happy childhood among the sugarcane plantations on the island of Mauritius. His sole confidante is his sister Laure, for whom he develops an almost obsessive devotion. After his father's financial failure and death, Alexis sails to the island of Rodrigues in search of buried gold, a quest his father had contemplated before him. There, as Alexis...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
SOURCE: Di Bernardi, Dominic. Review of Printemps et autres saisons, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. Review of Contemporary Fiction 11, no. 2 (summer 1991): 262–63.
[In the following positive review, Di Bernardi praises Printemps et autres saisons for reexamining the oft-addressed themes of nationalism and racial purity.]
J. M. G. Le Clézio's newest collection of short stories, Printemps et autres saisons, might be more accurately described as a novella and four stories, and more aptly titled “Five Young Women.” Writers commonly exploit images of the opposite sex as vehicles for examining broader themes. These narratives, all written in Le Clézio's trademark impassive (and at times disappointingly deadpan) style, are focused on foreign women, mostly North African, whose (mostly failed) encounters with a variety of French males furnish the basic story lines.
For example, “Fascination” romantically evokes a man's pursuit of an ever-elusive Arab woman he first saw performing in a restaurant. “Le Temps ne passe pas” (“Time Doesn't Pass”) recounts the aborted romance between two teenagers, torn apart both by racial strife and economic necessity. “La Saison des pluies” (“The Rainy Season”) depicts the European exile of a woman named Gaby, who has left true love behind in the tropics. Finally, in “Zinna,” perhaps the single wholly unsuccessful story...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
SOURCE: Rose, Marilyn Gaddis. Review of Onitsha, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. World Literature Today 66, no. 2 (spring 1992): 304–05.
[In the following review of Onitsha, Rose focuses on Le Clézio's interest in non-Western settings.]
Once again J. M. G. Le Clézio, a novelist fascinated by the non-Western and an anthropologist respecting the Other, takes readers to a site that destroys Westerners; that is, the site either encourages their most egregious exploitative colonialism or puts them in the thrall of difference. The latter happens when the new non-Western environment casts a spell severing the Westerners from their own kind but keeping a barrier between them and the natives.
In Onitsha the time is the immediate postwar period, and the site is a British sub-Saharan colony about five years from independence movements. Geoffrey Allen, a distribution agent for the United Africa Company, retrieves his Italian wife Marilou and their son Fintan from their wartime refuge on the French Riviera. The twelve-year-old Fintan, Le Clézio's chief narrative consciousness here, must learn a “new” father and his language as well as an African river culture upon which the British have overlaid a colonial culture. His father is re-creating by twilight-sleep intuition the journey a fabulous black Egyptian queen must have taken to bring her people to a landmark up the river from...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
SOURCE: Buss, Robin. Review of Étoile errante, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. Times Literary Supplement, no. 4688 (February 1993): 13.
[In the following mixed review, Buss praises Le Clézio's development of the two central female characters in Onitsha, but argues that the novel's content is superficial.]
The blurb on J. M. G. Le Clézio's new novel says that it forms a pair with Onitsha, published in 1991; but, in reality, the filiation goes further back, to Désert, (1980), in which Lalla, a Moroccan girl, experiences the alienation of the city, conceives a child, loses the father in a banal accident and gives birth after returning to a more natural environment. Esther, the Jewish girl in Étoile errante, follows a comparable odyssey and also gives birth to her child after the violent death of its father. In Onitsha, the young Fintan travels to Africa, to discover an older civilization beneath that imposed by colonialism. All three books express a similar message about harmony with nature and share the same identification with the oppressed of the world.
Esther starts her journey as Hélène, disguised under that name because she is the child of Jewish parents in a small town in the South of France during the Occupation. She has first to survive, and then to recover her proper identity. Escaping from the Germans with her mother, she travels to...
(The entire section is 600 words.)
SOURCE: Rose, Marilyn Gaddis. Review of Étoile errante, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. World Literature Today 67, no. 3 (summer 1993): 585.
[In the following review of Étoile errante, Rose compliments Le Clézio's attempt to write about lesser-known historical events, but criticizes how Le Clézio “renders history through a young woman's puberty.”]
The star of the title Étoile errante refers to the key character, Esther, called Estrelitta by her father, who is thirteen when the chronicle begins in the Alpine foothills near Nice, fifty-two when the book ends. The story concludes in the same place where it began, since on the occasion of her mother Elisabeth's death Esther has returned to visit the mountain site where her father died when his group of fugitives were mowed down by Germans. This was just after the Italians, having surrendered to the Americans, had pulled out of the little town where French Jews had taken refuge. During the intervening forty years, Esther and Elisabeth, who had reached safety in Italy, had wandered to Paris, then sailed to Israel on a freighter clandestinely loaded with refugees. They arrived at the very moment the state of Israel came into being and lived on a kibbutz until Esther's fiancé was killed at the front. In final synopsis chapters we learn that they have moved to Montréal, where Esther has attended medical school and has married. From there...
(The entire section is 556 words.)
SOURCE: Thompson, William. Review of Étoile errante, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. French Review 67, no. 4 (March 1994): 704.
[In the following review, Thompson offers a positive assessment of Étoile errante.]
There are two “wandering stars” in Le Clézio's latest novel, Étoile errante, two young women whose paths cross only once and for one brief moment which results in a solitary exchange of names on the blank page of a notebook. This chance encounter will, however, have a lasting, significant impact on both as the journeys of these two “stars,” Esther and Nejma, take radically different routes.
Esther, whom her father lovingly calls “Estrellita” (“Little Star”), is, as the novel begins, a young Jewish girl living with her parents in the mountains north of Nice. In fact, they are less “living” than trying to avoid the increasingly ominous Nazi presence in occupied France. Every day Esther and her parents, like the other Jews in the town, must present themselves at the Hotel Terminus to be accounted for and to receive their ration cards from the Italian troops stationed there. As the war progresses, Italy surrenders, and the Italian troops retreat, leaving the area they once occupied to the Germans. Esther and her mother must flee without knowing what has become of her father who has been contributing to the Resistance. The two women find refuge in Italy...
(The entire section is 706 words.)
SOURCE: Buss, Robin. Review of La Quarantaine, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. Times Literary Supplement, no. 4858 (10 May 1996): 22.
[In the following review, Buss offers a generally positive assessment of La Quarantaine.]
When J. M. G. Le Clézio won the Prix Renaudot in 1963 with his first novel, Le Procès-verbal, and was acclaimed as the most promising new voice in French literature, the cultural establishment appeared to be playing one of its games. Here was the story of an outsider, an assault on the values of modern society; but with the inducement of a few plums, its talented author could probably be persuaded out of this stance of late-adolescent revolt.
Le Clézio was not to be seduced. He refused to be drawn into the Parisian literary scene (he now lives in New Mexico), and has remained a misfit among French writers, continuing to explore his unease with modern European society, increasingly from the point of view of the persecuted and the disinherited of the Third World. Most of his work in the past fifteen years has been on this theme, often using protagonists who are as far as possible from the author himself and his own immediate experience—the Moroccan girl in Désert, the Africans of Onitsha, the Jewish and Palestinian women of Étoile errante—as though the author felt the need to extend still further a consciousness already shaped by a...
(The entire section is 707 words.)
SOURCE: Brown, John L. Review of La Quarantaine, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. World Literature Today 70, no. 4 (fall 1996): 909.
[In the following review, Brown offers a positive assessment of La Quarantaine.]
From the start, J. M. G. Le Clézio has been considered a maverick, but a maverick of genius. In 1963, at the age of twenty-three, his first novel, Le Procès-verbal, received the Prix Renaudot. Since then, he has published some twenty-three works, of which La Quarantaine is the most recent. They take place all over the globe, from South and Central America (Le Clézio has a particular fondness for Mexico and has translated some ancient Mayan poetry) to India and Africa. He spends little time in France, preferring to live in Albuquerque (New Mexico) or in Michoacán (Mexico). He even refused to return to Paris to sign copies of La Quarantaine for Gallimard's service de presse. He disregards the literary establishment, which considers him “une maladie contagieuse”! But readers apparently love him. In a poll taken last year by Lire he was chosen as “le plus grand écrivain contemporain de la langue française.” Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and Chateaubriand are frequently cited as among his “great ancestors.” He hates the world of modern technology, which “tyrannizes man by mechanical and psychological means for commercial ends” (Les Géants,...
(The entire section is 791 words.)
SOURCE: Motte, Warren. “Writing Away.” World Literature Today 71, no. 4 (fall 1997): 689–94.
[In the following essay, Motte examines how Onitsha addresses the concept of the “mother tongue.”]
For many critics, J. M. G. Le Clézio's principal virtue as a writer is his ability to construct a novelistic landscape that is dramatically different from the real world of his readers, a deeply evocative, seductive “elsewhere” to which we travel on the virtual journey of his fiction.1 Such a technique is of course one of the privileged gestures of narrative, at least since Homer; yet in Le Clézio's texts it assumes a richly personal specificity which may be read, I think, as his authorial signature. I should like to examine that effect, focusing upon what I consider to be the most exemplary of Le Clézio's recent novels, Onitsha.
Like many of Le Clézio's writings, Onitsha is a novel of apprenticeship. It tells the story of a young boy named Fintan who leaves France for Africa with his mother in order to join a father whom he has not seen for many years. The very first words of the novel inscribe the theme of the journey and announce that it will occupy the foreground of the tale: “Le Surabaya, un navire de cinq mille trois cents tonneaux, deja vieux, de la Holland Africa Line, venait de quitter les eaux sales de l'estuaire de la Gironde et faisait...
(The entire section is 5703 words.)
SOURCE: Knapp, Bettina L. “J. M. G. Le Clézio's Désert: The Myth of Transparency.” World Literature Today 71, no. 4 (fall 1997): 703–08.
[In the following essay, Knapp examines how the characters in Désert seem to randomly appear and disappear.]
The myth of transparency (Latin, trans, “beyond,” + parere, “to appear” or “show through”) lies at the heart of J. M. G. Le Clézio's 1980 novel Désert. The hallucinatory images or visions rising up as if from nothingness at certain junctures in the novel invite the reader to glimpse, but only briefly, a world of imponderables. Since ambiguity and mystery are the essence of myth in general and of Le Clézio's novel in particular, the reader faces a confluence of perpetually vibrating signs, palpating arcana, and sensations that enunciate their livingness in, paradoxically, silent transparencies.
Le Clézio's myth of transparency relates a primordial experience, sometimes personal but more often transcendental: a reflection of a living and burning reality that exists in the psyches of his characters. The creatures of the author's fantasy are not flesh and blood. Like shadow-play beings, they appear as active observing presences in the pursuit of their ever-circular travels. Individual existences are effaced in favor of collective movements. Sentimentality, gentleness, relatedness, and bonding in deeply...
(The entire section is 5474 words.)
SOURCE: Thompson, William. “Voyage and Immobility in J. M. G. Le Clézio's Désert and La Quarantaine.” World Literature Today 71, no. 4 (fall 1997): 709–16.
[In the following essay, Thompson studies the two diametric themes of voyage and immobility by comparing Désert and La Quarantaine.]
I have often enjoyed embarking on a voyage with Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. In his fictional works, he has led his readers on an extensive and culturally rich voyage across the planet: to the islands in the Indian Ocean in Le Chercheur d'or and La Quarantaine, to West Africa in Onitsha, to North Africa, Europe, and even America in Désert and Poisson d'or, and to the Middle East in Étoile errante. I have spent many a quiet evening at home, in the comfort of my reclining chair, accompanying Le Clézio around the world, exploring places which I have never visited and perhaps never will. Yet at the same time I have been immobile with Le Clézio, never leaving my chair as I sit, transfixed, immersing myself in the exotic locales he depicts, and as I immobilize the text, lingering over and rereading the rich descriptive passages that so capture my imagination. But I have also literally traveled with Le Clézio, as copies of his works have accompanied me on my own voyages, less adventurous to be sure: home for the holidays and to the MLA convention in...
(The entire section is 6190 words.)
SOURCE: Thibault, Bruno. “‘Awaite Pawana’: J. M. G. Le Clézio's Vision of the Sacred.” World Literature Today 71, no. 4 (fall 1997): 723–29.
[In the following essay, Thibault explores the central themes in Le Clézio's lengthy short story “Awaite Pawana.”]
“Awaite Pawana” is a long short story of some fifty pages, published by J. M. G. Le Clézio in 1992, the very year of the commemoration of America's discovery by the Europeans. But in this text the mood of the author is not one of celebration: “Pawana” is an apocalyptic tale. It does not evoke the age of great discoveries but rather the closure of the “western frontier” and the systematic destruction of America's natural resources.
The central action takes place at the beginning of 1856, the period that saw the development of colonization on the California coast. At first Le Clézio describes, with a certain realism, the fishing boats and the merchant ships that converge from throughout the world on the Pacific coasts of North America and Mexico. Then he pictures for us the diverse crews of these boats and ships: the buccaneers, the traffickers, the gold seekers, the immigrants coming from all four corners of the globe. It is still a savage and brutal age, although cities are developing, San Francisco in particular.
Le Clézio goes on to show how the whaling companies, replacing the beaver...
(The entire section is 5105 words.)
SOURCE: Thompson, William. Review of Poisson d'or, by J. M. G. Le Clézio. World Literature Today 71, no. 4 (fall 1997): 748.
[In the following review, Thompson relates how Poisson d'or follows in the thematic tradition of Le Clézio's previous novels.]
Poisson d'or is the first-person account of a young North African woman, Laila, who is kidnapped and sold as a young child and who encounters in her journeys (through Africa, Europe, and America) a vast range of humanity, rich and poor, kind and cruel. Some mistreat and exploit her; others suffer and struggle like her. Midway through the text, Laila—the “golden fish” of the title—realizes that the many people with whom she comes in contact each have their own personal agendas to follow, and that she cannot depend on others to assist her as she confronts the harsh realities of life: ‘J'avais compris que si les gens ont a choisir entre toi et leur bonheur, ce n'est pas toi qu'ils prennent.” With no family and no known origins or identity (for she does not in fact know her real name), Laila must endure the cruelties of life on her own.
Although sold into virtual slavery early in life, Laila leads an existence with Lalla Asma—her “mistress” and “grandmother”—that is far from desolate. The death of the latter, however, leads Laila to embark on a potentially endless journey whose destination and...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
SOURCE: Imbert, Jean-Phillipe. “J. M. G. Le Clézio, Writer of Exile: A Treatment of Childhood and Exile in Désert and Étoile errante.” In Exiles and Migrants: Crossing Thresholds in European Culture and Society, pp. 201–11. England: Sussex Academic, 1997.
[In the following essay, Imbert analyzes the motifs of exile and childhood in Désert and Étoile errante.]
When the unaware reader embarks on Étoile errante,1 little does he realise that a decade earlier Le Clézio had undertaken a similar voyage when writing Désert,2 both books describing two departures into exile, two quests for self-discovery.
Désert, written in 1980, presents the reader with Lalla, a daughter of the hommes bleus (the Tuaregs, Berber nomads in the Sahara), whose past of untold tales of fighting for freedom will forever prevent her from remaining in France. In Étoile errante, published some twelve years later, set in summer 1943, the reader follows Esther, a young Jewish teenager, on a journey from a land of fear and humiliation to her Promised Land, where she will meet Nejma, a Palestinian refugee who is setting off for her new camp.
Twelve years separate these two novels, yet the similar themes of searching for the lost purity of childhood and atonement through exile from a world doomed to the void...
(The entire section is 4641 words.)
SOURCE: Levy, Karen D. “Intersected Pasts and Problematic Futures: Oedipal Conflicts and Legendary Catastrophe in J. M. G. Le Clézio's Onitsha and Étoile errante.” International Fiction Review 25, nos. 1–2 (1998): 36–49.
[In the following essay, Levy uses psychoanalysis and feminist theory to explore the protagonists's “fascination with the past” in Onitsha and Étoile errante.]
Since the publication of his first novel, Le Procès-verbal (The Interrogation, 1963), in which the protagonist Adam Pollo finds refuge from the aggressions of modern life in an asylum, J. M. G. Le Clézio has been exploring the wounds of the human condition, caused, in his eyes, by expulsion from the liquid paradise of the womb and the fall into time. His characters are caught in various ways between the desire to lose themselves in the simultaneously comforting yet potentially fatal embrace of the maternal and the challenge of being able to mourn their loss and to acknowledge the void of the past in order to accept the risks of an imperfect future. None of Le Clézio's texts inscribes this drama as intensely or as seductively as his recent diptych: Onitsha and Étoile errante (Wandering Star).1 In this study I will analyze the various manifestations the fascination with the past assumes in these novels and address the question as to whether and how...
(The entire section is 6949 words.)
Bre, Germaine. “The Fabulous World of J. M. G. Le Clézio.” In From Dante to García Márquez: Studies in Romance Literatures and Linguistics, edited by Gene H. Bell-Villada, Antonio Giménez, and George Pistorius, pp. 349–59. Massachusetts: Williams College, 1987.
Bre discusses how Le Clézio and his novels fit into contemporary French literature.
Cagnon, Maurice. “J. M. G. Le Clézio: The Genesis of Writing.” Language & Style 5, no. 3 (summer 1972): 221–27.
Cagnon utilizes Le Livre des fuites: Roman d'adventures to demonstrate how different Le Clézio's writing process is from Le Clézio's own description of the process in his article “Comment j'écris.”
Cagnon, Maurice, and Stephen Smith. “Le Clézio's Taoist Vision.” French Review 47, no. 6 (spring 1974): 245–52.
Cagnon and Smith explore the Yin-Yang relationship in the works of Le Clézio.
Di Bernardi, Dominic. “Fruits of Paradise.” Washington Post Book World 24 (2 January 1994): 9.
Di Bernardi examines how Le Clézio treats the theme of colonialism in The Prospector and The Mexican Dream.
Jollin, Sophie. “From the Renaudot Prize to the Puterbaugh Conference: The Reception of J. M. G. Le Clézio.” World Literature...
(The entire section is 411 words.)