Sunday, November 23, 2008

"L'Africain" by J.M.G. Le Clézio

Year of publication: 2004
Genre: biography, memoir
Setting and Time: Nigeria, Cameroon, France and Guyana, before and after the Second World War
Themes: Africa, family relationships, vocational jobs, colonialism

Nobel Prize in Literature 2008

About the author: read this post

What it’s all about: In this short book Le Clézio remembers his father, who was a “jungle doctor” first in Guyana and then in Cameroon and Nigeria. Here you can find his thoughts about his African childhood and about life in remote places.

Some thoughts: Can you start to understand why Le Clézio won a Nobel Prize by reading this nice little book? Not really. I mean, this is simply the account of the life of Le Clézio’s father as a doctor in various parts of the world, not a full-length novel. Of course, you can learn about his background and understand why he wrote about so many different parts of the world (sort of like Bruce Chatwin I would say).
The childhood of the Le Clézios in Africa is the antithesis of colonial life: they don’t have a big house with many servants (even though they have a “houseboy”) and they are the only white people in their village, so they are not enjoying the kind of life that Doris Lessing or Muriel Spark might recount about their African experience. There were a few fascinating things that he remembers about Africa, for example some of its animals and the life style of the people over there. The most interesting thing is how Le Clézio’s father is changed and shaped by his hard life in remote places of the world: when he goes back to France he is a real African man. There is nothing exotic in Le Clézio’s tale: his father led a lonely life in very isolated places and sometimes he had little human contact. Moreover, he lived with the frustration of not having the right medicines to cure the most common diseases of the villagers.
I’d like to read more about this author, as I’m not really in a position to say if he deserved the Nobel Prize or not. For the moment, I’m happy that I managed to read this small book in its original language and I can say that I quite enjoyed it.

Just click on the tag called Nobel Prize in Literature 2008 for some "musings" on this year's Nobel Prize Award.


  1. Ohhhhh...I LOVE this book!!!!
    Brava Ste che ne hai parlato!!!!se lo merita ;)
    un abbraccio!

  2. There's a prize for you...passa a ritirarlo!

  3. Excellent petit livre...full of insight...puis ça fait découvrir une autre Afrique...celle qui semble s'effacer doucement (mais pas de la mémoire de l'écrivain... :)

  4. S'il vous plaît m'aider à trouver ce livre en anglais ou est-il un

    Merci d'avance :)

  5. I have not read the book, do intend to. Your review is very well-written.