Désert (novel)

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Desert
DesertClezio.jpg
First English edition (US)
Author J. M. G. Le Clézio
Original title Désert
Country France
Language French
Publisher Gallimard
David R. Godine (US)
Publication date
6 May 1980
Published in English
2009
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 410 pp
ISBN 978-2-07-020712-1
OCLC 15090765

Désert is a novel written by French Nobel laureate writer J. M. G. Le Clézio, considered to be one of his breakthrough novels.[1] It won the Académie française's Grand Prix Paul Morand in 1980.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Two stories are interwoven. The shorter, which begins and ends the book, is specifically set in 1910–1912 and tells of the last uprising of the desert tribes against the French protectorate of Morocco, mostly as observed by a small boy, Nour. The longer, the story of Lalla, is set in an indefinite time, but obviously after the Second World War. It describes her early life in a Shanty "city" on the edge of an unnamed Moroccan coastal town, and particularly her friendship with "the Hartani" who, like her, originates from the desert tribes. It narrates the time she spends in Marseilles and her eventual return to the shanty city, where she gives birth to the Hartani's child.

Publication history[edit]

First French edition
  • Le Clézio, J. M. G (1980). Désert (in French). Paris: Gallimard, Le Chemin. p. 410. ISBN 978-2-07-020712-1. 
Second French edition
First English translated edition
  • Le Clézio, J. M. G (2009). Desert. translated from the French by C. Dickson. David R. Godine. ISBN 978-1-56792-386-5. 

Reviews[edit]

Review taken from Reuters,India

Le Clezio's constant travels are reflected in the settings of his books and his definitive breakthrough as a novelist came with "Desert" (1980), for which he received a prize from the French Academy. This work contained images of a lost culture in the North African desert, contrasting with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants

— Reuter ,India[3]

Review taken from the TLS

Le Clezio received the Académie française's Grand Prix Paul Morand in 1980 for Désert, a novel that revealed a move towards a more expansive and lyrical style. The book has a dual narrative. The first, dated 1909–1910, chronicles the tragic fate of a Tuareg clan fleeing across Morocco from their French and Spanish colonial oppressors ("les Chretiens"[4]). There are fine evocations of the unforgiving desert: "They crossed the mountains for days. The burning wind blew in the ravines. The blue sky was immense above the red rocks. There was no one here, neither man nor beast, just occasionally the trace of a serpent in the sand, or, very high up in the sky, the shadow of a vulture". The second narrative follows Lalla, a beautiful, fearless, young Moroccan girl who lands in an intimidating Marseilles, where she endures abuse and hardship before being taken up by a fashion photographer. As in Poisson d'or (1997), the story of a young girl's odyssey from Morocco to Los Angeles, Le Clezio's imaginative empathy is put to good effect.

— review is taken from the TLS[5]

Review taken from kirjasto.sci.fi

...a young nomad woman from the Sahara becomes a famous photo model, but she returns to the desert to give birth to her child. A parallel story tells of the crushing of the Tuaregs in the beginning of the 20th century by the French colonizers

— Petri Liukkonen [6] kirjasto.sci.fi

Review taken from Deseret News (Salt Lake City)

Le Clezio made his breakthrough as a novelist with "Desert", in 1980, a work the academy said "contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants."[7]

That novel, which also won Le Clezio a prize from the French Academy, is considered a masterpiece. It describes the ordeal of Lalla, a woman from the Tuareg nomadic tribe of the Sahara Desert, as she adapts to civilization imposed by colonial France

— Matt Moore[8] Deseret News

Review taken from World Literature Today

The first two sections of Le Clezio's novel, the most gripping and the ones on which we will focus, take place in Morocco's Sahara Desert
The events narrated, experienced in a kind of eternity, recount a myth, as previously mentioned, but not the classical type. Unlike the myths of old, Le Clezio's does not deal with inexplicable occurrences, or with fabulous beings, or with lives of divinities, heroes, heroines, or supernatural powers. Rather, it deals with Berbers (Chleuh), a people inhabiting North Africa since, it is surmised, 3000 B.C.E. .
Although the first study devoted to the Berbers was written by the famous Arab historian Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), since that time little factual knowledge has been unearthed concerning their origins.

Emphasis in Le Clezio's novel is centered on the "Blue Men" or "Blue People" (Tuaregs), ancient warriors of the southern desert. Impoverished and ragged in Le Clezio's tale, they are nevertheless set apart by their attire: they wear deep blue flowing robes and veils, and where the dye has rubbed off, their skin also becomes blue-tinted.

Le Clezio's characters are, as in ancient myths, endowed with a powerful religious quality, to be understood in the sense of religio (Latin, a "linking back"). That a microcosm inhabits each protagonist suggests the presence of a whole intelligible and unintelligible world which enables the individual to live not only outside of temporal time but also in an expandable space of his or her own manufacture.
The divine experience, be it in the form of prayer, in an animistic relationship with nature, or in the sexual act, invites the worshiper to penetrate "beyond,.... through", or "across" what others, devoid of inner sight, might consider to be impervious opacities.
Le Clezio's world of transparencies in this regard follows ancient mythic patterns: the individual, gradually removed from circumscribed and limited frames of reference, is plunged into a collective experience – a kind of theophany .

— Bettina L. Knapp "J.M.G. Le Clezio's 'Desert': the myth of transparency". World Literature Today.FindArticles.com.[9]

Review taken from Western Sahara information

The protagonist, Lalla, appears to be not Algerian at all, as the bio claims, but from Río de Oro, i.e. Western Sahara (described ... as South Morocco).

The time frame, 1909–1912, points to the failed Ma el-Ainin revolt. Sheikh Ma el-Ainin was a major figure in the history of the Hassani tribal territories, who is today claimed as a nationalist forerunner by both Morocco and Polisario, but who was in fact perhaps most connected to the tribal emirate in Adrar and Qadiri sufi politics in today's northern Mauritania. After leading a religiously based Moorish resistance to the French commander Coppolani's forces advancing northwards from Senegal, he retreated into the Spanish Sahara. There, built the city of Smara, out of reach of the French forces – it is today controlled by Morocco. When fighting the French, Sheikh Ma el-Ainin claimed fealty to the Moroccan Sultan in exchange for arms and financial backing for his revolt; but when the support dried up and the Sultan distanced himself from these troublesome tribals, he turned on his former benefactor and proclaimed himself Sultan of Morocco (and most of the rest of western North Africa). In 1912, his forces were routed by the French, and he died soon thereafter, but tribal jihads against the French led by his sons went on for some time.


— Western Sahara Info[10]

Review taken from the web-page of The Hindu Group;

Le Clézio broke new grounds with his Desert (1980), a novel the Swedish Academy emphasised had "magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants."[7] A woman abandons her desert land and moves into the decadent milieu of French urbanity

— The Hindu Group[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lyall, Sarah (2009-01-15). "Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  2. ^ Tahourdin, Adrian (April 21, 2006). "A Frenchman and a geographer". 5th paragraph (London: review is taken from the TLS). Retrieved 9 December 2008. Le Clezio received the Académie française's Grand Prix Paul Morand in 1980 for Desert, a novel that revealed a move towards a more expansive and lyrical style 
  3. ^ "FACTBOX – Nobel Literature prize – Who is Le Clezio?". Reuters. 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  4. ^ "Chrétien". Retrieved 1 January 2009. In the French language, chrétien is the masculine form of 'Christian', as both noun and adjective 
  5. ^ Tahourdin, Adrian (April 21, 2006). "A Frenchman and a geographer". 5th paragraph (London: review is taken from the TLS). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  6. ^ Petri Liukkonen. "Authors' Calendar:J.M.G. Le Clézio (1940–)". Retrieved 2008-11-09. In Désert (1980), which received the Grand Prix Paul Morand, a young nomad woman, Lalla, from the Sahara becomes a famous photo model, but she returns to the desert to give birth to her child 
  7. ^ a b "Biobibliographical Notes on Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio". Bio-bibliography. The Swedish Academy who awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature 2008. 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2009. His definitive breakthrough as a novelist came with Désert (1980), for which he received a prize from the French Academy. This work contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert, contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants. The main character, the Algerian guest worker Lalla, is a utopian antithesis to the ugliness and brutality of European society. 
  8. ^ Matt Moore (10 October 2008). "Le Clezio of France wins Nobel Prize in literature". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  9. ^ Knapp, Bettina L. (1997). "J.M.G. Le Clezio's 'Desert': the myth of transparency". University of Oklahoma /BETTINA L. KNAPP is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Hunter College (World Literature Today,FindArticles.com). Retrieved 1 January 2009. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Le Clézio's Désert". Western Sahara Info. 2008-10-10. Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  11. ^ "Narratives of colliding cultures...". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2 November 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2009.