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The African Hardcover – September 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


Le Clezio is ever the master at rendering existence at the level of sensation with a daring and admirable freshness of language. --Peter Brooks, New York Times

For many years now, the publishing house of David R. Godine has been producing some of the most attractive books of our time. Witness this little volume of reminiscences by J.M.G. Le Clézio, the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature. [...]

Apart from award-winning novels, starting with The Interrogation, J.M.G. Le Clézio has written repeatedly about ecology, landscape and colonialism, paying particular attention to Africa, Mexico, Central America and his family s native Mauritius. Given that he has produced more than 40 books, The African can represent only one aspect of, in the words of the Nobel committee, an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization. Still, this brief memoir provides a good entry point, honoring, as it does, Le Clézio s father and mother and his own lost African childhood. --Michael Dirda, Washington Post

The past has receded, become so distant that no memory, no attempt to summon it can possibly bring it back. Nobel Prize winner J.M.G. Le Clézio tells us as much, even as his slim memoir, "The African," valiantly attempts to call back a lost time. [...] Le Clézio's book is as much a speculative biography of a man he now realizes he hardly knew as a memoir of a complicated childhood. It is a memory palace, a deliberately disordered evocation of the past that hopscotches through time. --Saul Austerlitz, Boston Globe

About the Author

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born in 1940 in Nice, France. His first novel, Le Proces-Verbal (The Interrogation), won the Prix Renaudot in 1963 and established his reputation as one of France's preeminent writers. He has published more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Prospector (Godine, 1993) and Desert (Godine, 2009). He and his wife currently divide their time between Nice, New Mexico, and the island of Mauritius.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine (September 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567924603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567924602
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"L'African" is J.M.G. Le Clézio's father, and this slim, elegant book is a poignant profile of Le Clézio's father and, to a lesser extent, a memoir of the few years of his own youth that were spent in Africa. The book is a small gem, of the elevated, distinguished quality one would like to think the norm for Nobel laureates.

Of French extraction, Le Clézio's father was born and raised on Mauritius, which since 1810 had been a British colony. In 1919, the family was evicted from its ancestral home, and Le Clézio père went to Great Britain where he was educated as a doctor. Without wealth or societal connections, he entered British service as a physician on assignments to remote colonies - first to British Guiana and then, in 1928, to West Africa, where he was posted to areas now in Biafra, eastern Nigeria, and western Cameroon. "[I]t was a region in which war was all-pervasive, the war of human beings against one another, the war against poverty, the war against abuse and corruption inherited from colonization, especially the war against germs." While in West Africa, he married his cousin and for a time they lived a rather primitive but relatively Edenic existence in the more peaceful African highlands before his wife returned to France, where she had two sons, one being Jean-Marie Gustave (born in 1940). The outbreak of World War II separated the family, with mother and sons in France and father in western Nigeria. It wasn't until 1948 that they were re-united and J.M.G. first met his father, at the age of eight, when he and his mother and older brother moved to Nigeria to join his father.

Much of the early part of THE AFRICAN consists of vignettes from J.M.G.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shivaji Das on February 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Le Clezio's African is not the Africans themselves, but his father. The book talks of the impression and the effects that the bodies and the land of Africa left behind on the author and his father, how it carved their sensibilities, worldview and eventually turning his father into a misfit in his native France. At times elegantly written, but the book falls short in convincing the reader about the power of African experiences. Perhaps, a longer memoir would have done this more justice. None the less, the book is an interesting stimulator to read the better known works by Le Clezio
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By nirvan hope on July 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this beautiful (physical and language-wise) small volume, Mr. LeClezio examines both the experiences of freedom during his childhood years in Africa and the lack of a warm relationship with his emotionally distant father. He details the arc of his father’s life, an extraordinary man dedicated to his role of doctor first in Guyana, then in Cameroon and Nigeria, who singlehandedly serves a wide territory with modern medicine. When war breaks out, his father is separated from his family for years and joy slowly fades from his life as he turns more and more toward disciplined hard work. His father comes to realize that even as a doctor, he too plays the role of colonizer, a role he despises. The seeds of revulsion toward colonialization are planted in Mr. LeClezio’s early years.

Honoring his father, an African by destiny, and his African mother by conception, the author skillfully weaves together a colorful tapestry of his African heritage with clear and vivid descriptions of his parents, places, and events.

This book is especially poignant for me, as I, too, experienced a colonial childhood in Africa prior to independence, arriving by boat from the Mediterranean with my mother to join my father in Northern Nigeria, and also coming to terms with an uneasy relationship with my father. Mr. LeClezio’s words evoke visceral sensory African memories, from the drama of violent late afternoon thunderstorms, the fiery bite of red ants, the red dust of laterite roads, and the nourishing scent of groundnut stew simmering on a woodstove.

Only recently introduced to the literature of Mr. LeClezio, I anticipate many happy hours ahead of reading, learning, and being entertained by his other books.
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