I’ve had a mixed experience with Nobel Prize winners that I’ve recently read. The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek was challenging to say the least, and Auto-da-Fe by Elias Canetti was bizarre. On the other hand, Beloved by Toni Morrison was a revelation, and The Double by José Saramago was very entertaining. But Wandering Star aroused intense feelings of melancholy about the Arab-Israeli conflict and of anger about international indifference to the persisting plight of refugees all over the world.
J.M.G. Le Clézio was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature as an ‘author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization’ – and I bought Wandering Star, the only one of his books available in English, shortly afterwards. Now that I’ve finally read it, I understand why he won the prize.
Alison Kelly’s review at The Guardian explains that Le Clezio wrote experimental fiction in his first phase as an author, but that Wandering Star reverts to using ‘conventional modes of storytelling complete with familiar devices such as characters, settings and plots’. Since I haven’t read any of his unconventional works, I can’t comment on the full scope of this author, but (despite the pedestrian translation) this book shows a writer in great command of his powers. In this novel he has tackled that most intractable of geopolitical issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the point of view of two young girls, both of whom are ‘wandering stars’ in search of a home. Esther is a Jewish refugee in post-Holocaust Europe, and Nejma is a dispossessed Palestinian. Their parallel stories illuminate the anguish of exile.
To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/wandering-star-by-j-m-g-le-clezio/