The African by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio

(French Title: L'Africain - 2004)

Reviewed by Marianne from "Let's Read"

The French Nobel prize winner wrote this an autobiographical essay mainly about his childhood in Africa where he met his father who spent most of his life there. A good description of the African landscape and not only an autobiography about the author but also about his father whom he got to know as a stranger.

With this book, he seems to want to get closer to a father he never got to know well during this youth. His way to his father is over his beloved Africa, a continent that has formed his childhood. He shows this best in this quote: "I am forever yearning to go back to Africa, to my childhood memory. To the source of my feelings, to that which molded my character."

Wonderful writing, I'm not surprised he was a Nobel laureate. An author who truly deserves this recognition.

This will not be the last book I have read by J.M.G. Le Clézio.

From the back cover: "The African is a short autobiographical account of a pivotal moment in Nobel-Prize-winning author J. M. G. Le Clézio's childhood. In 1948, young Le Clézio, with his mother and brother, left behind a still-devastated Europe to join his father, a military doctor in Nigeria, from whom he'd been separated by the war. In Le Clézio's characteristically intimate, poetic voice, the narrative relates both the dazzled enthusiasm the child feels at discovering newfound freedom in the African savannah and his torment at discovering the rigid authoritarian nature of his father. The power and beauty of the book reside in the fact that both discoveries occur simultaneously.
While primarily a memoir of the author's boyhood, The African is also Le Clézio's attempt to pay a belated homage to the man he met for the first time in Africa at age eight and was never quite able to love or accept. His reflections on the nature of his relationship to his father become a chapeau bas to the adventurous military.
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Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization", received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.

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