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Wandering Star (Lannan Translation Selection Series) Paperback – October 1, 2004
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Internationally acclaimed French novelist Le Clezio is a bewitching storyteller with a penchant for tales of survival that are at once acutely realistic and mythically romantic. In his latest hauntingly lyrical yet clear-eyed and worldly novel, he tells the story of two young women uprooted by the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel. Esther and her parents are hiding from the Germans in a mountain village where the children run wild and grow strong while the adults risk their lives in the Resistance movement. Esther survives and, after much suffering, embarks on an arduous journey to Jerusalem. But as she and her fellow exhausted travelers finally near their promised land, they pass a stream of equally despairing, newly displaced refugees, among them Nejma, a Palestinian girl. Nejma then chronicles the misery of a gravely ill-provisioned camp and her heroic escape. Exquisitely attuned to nature's quest for balance and humanity's penchant for excess and paradox, Le Clezio writes with high compassion and deep wonder of the boundless strength of the spirit. Donna Seaman
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"...a must read for anyone that cares about anyone." -- WAV Magazine
"...a story about people and what happens to them in war and exile...a marvelous piece of literature." -- Jewish Book World
"By taking no sides, by showing the agony of allhe has produced a near masterpiece." -- Ralph Magazine
"Etoile errante [Wandering Star] can unquestionably be ranked among the very great novels." -- L'Humanité
"What Le Clézio accomplishes is a tapestry woven from images of despair and hope..." -- Bloomsbury Review
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Top customer reviews
It is a powerful image. Had the book jacket not made clear that this was to be the story of two women, it would have come as a surprise. For the first 200 pages have their own shape: the story of Esther's childhood in the French Alpes Maritimes, her narrow escape from the encroaching Holocaust, and her clandestine postwar emigration to Israel. Now Le Clézio counterposes another story, one dominated by deprivation and horror instead of youth and light, though both centered around attractive and resilient young women. But anybody trying to predict the course of the book at this stage would still be wrong.
The only other book by the 2008 Nobel laureate that I have read, ONITSHA, despite its almost mythical African setting, shows similar qualities to this one: adolescent protagonists, life-altering journeys, the mystique of an absent father, the search for home -- and above all the interplay of contrasting narratives. WANDERING STAR is constantly shifting between genres. It opens in radiant simplicity, a tale of growing-up almost like a young adult novel, but it unfolds with curious repetitions, in whorls and petals, at times becoming more a dream than a story. As the Italians withdraw from that part of France and the Germans move in, we move to another familiar trope, that of the Holocaust novel; but again many of the usual expectations are denied, or postponed only to be fulfilled almost as footnotes many pages later.
Over all of this lies the Exodus story. Esther (then called Hélène) is brought up by non-religious parents. There is a striking scene when on a whim she visits the little village synagogue, and the sound of the prayers in a language she doesn't understand becomes for her an all-enveloping light. She gradually begins to experience her own Jewishness, and becomes possessed by the ideal of Eretz Israel and the city of light at its heart. Her journey there will not be easy, but eventually she arrives -- only to have that Exodus story contested by another exodus in the opposite direction.
How will the two narratives be resolved? Can they be resolved? The biblical Exodus led to forty years in the wilderness, forty years of further wandering. The action in WANDERING STAR extends for a similar period and moves to Jordan, Canada, back to France. Readers of ONITSHA will know Le Clézio's penchant for postludes; what he does here is more scattered, more true to life, and possibly more profound. Near the end, Esther revisits her old homes, looking for memories. The old Nazi headquarters has been turned into condos, the torrent that flowed down her village street has become a trickle, the mountain refuge where they once sheltered on their flight is booked up with tourists. But up there among the rocks and grasses she comes to a new realization: that our physical wanderings from place to place are nothing compared to the journeys we make in our minds.
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The novel features outstanding prose and a page turning story.Read more