31 October 08 | Chad W. Post

Richard Woodward has a really nice overview of Nobel Prize winner J.M.G. Le Clezio is today’s Wall Street Journal

Noting that at least a dozen of his more than 35 novels and story collections have been translated into English over the past 44 years, however, I could not help but wonder: Is a blinkered American literary scene to blame for his obscurity here?

To find out, I have immersed myself in his fiction, reading seven novels and two story collections — eight in English, one in French. I sampled his untranslated writings on cinema as well. Many works from the ’60s and ’70s have dated so badly — as he moved from existential despair to political outrage — that it took many cups of coffee to turn their pages. But most also contained passages of gorgeous writing — and one, the 1967 novel “Terra Amata,” was transcendent.

More philosopher than deviser of intricate characters or plots, Mr. Le Clézio is like a post-Darwin Rousseau, decrying the ruination of indigenous cultures around the world, often through the eyes of a child. At the same time, he is fascinated by the callousness of nature. In more than one novel he descends below grass level to record the brutality of insects.

Still, the book of Le Clezio’s that sounds most interesting to me is The Interrogation:

In his introduction, Mr. Le Clézio describes it as “the story of a man who is not sure whether he has left the army or a mental home.” Written in the shadow of Robbe-Grillet and Beckett, it simulates an unstable mind through abrupt temporal shifts.

And it’s described in the WSJ “Le Clezio Primer” as follows:

The Interrogation (1963): Organized into alphabetical fragments, the narrative concerns a damaged young man whose story is told, writes the author, “as a kind of game or jigsaw puzzle.”

Of course, it’s out of print . . .


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