Book Review: L'Africain by J.M.G. Le Clézio
Original Publisher: Mercure de France
First Published: 2004
I'm not quite sure what drove me to buy this book in particular. When I found out that Le Clézio had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, I felt that, as a French reader, I needed to have at least read him once. So I browsed my local bookstore's shelves and found this little piece entitled The African (I'm not sure what it's been translated as or even if it's been translated in English at all. I know some of his works have been, but I'm not sure about this particular one.).
I came to this book knowing absolutely nothing about the author's life or works and I was a bit worried that this might turn out into some colonial like type of narration. And boy was I wrong.
This short autobiographical narration deals mainly with the author's father: this authoritarian, withdrawn and solemn father figure who is a stranger in his own country, in his own family, though, as a doctor, he is entirely devoted to his patients. A man who refused to conform to western hypocrisy and formality and decided to practice medicine throughout the world, namely South America and Africa. A character who has been changed by war and all that he's witnessed and that the narrator only meets once he is 8 years old. They meet in a strange land, when the narrator moves with his mother and his brother to Nigeria to join his father.
A short (124 pages!) touching and intriguing story written in a non linear manner and illustrated with pictures taken from the author's own archives. A great introduction to an unknown writer for me and which allowed me to learn about the author's life and to become more familiar with his soft and poetic prose.
And now, I have to pick another book to read... and I just can't seem to choose !