In writing "L'Africain", Le Clézio reflects on his childhood in 1948 when he was 8 years old. According to the publisher he left Nice with his mother and brother to meet his father who was a doctor in Nigeria. His father remained there during the war but was too far away from the wife he loved and too far away from their two children (he had not seen either of these children growing up). In this short book Le Clézio remembers his father, who was a "jungle doctor" first in British Guiana and then in Cameroon and Nigeria. Here you can find Le Clézio's thoughts about his African childhood and about life in remote places. "L'Africain", the story of the author’s father, is at once a reconstruction, a vindication, and the recollection of a boy who lived in the shadow of a stranger he was obliged to love. He remembers through the landscape: Africa tells him who he was when he experienced the family’s reunion after the separation during the war years.The author may seem to be honouring the father from whom he was separated.
Le Clézio wrote an explanation on why he wrote this semi-autobiographical essay in the form of a short story on the cover of this book and in the second paragraph of the preface
I have long dreamed that my mother was black. I had invented a story, a history, to escape reality upon my return from Africa in this country, in this city where I did not know anyone, where I had become a stranger. Then I discovered when my father at the age of retirement, returned to live with us in France that he was the African. This has been difficult to accept. I felt I had to go back,once again,to try to understand.I wrote this little book as a souvenir."
^"L'Africain". titres (in French). Mercure De France. Retrieved 11 December 2008. "Avec sa mère et son frère, il quitte Nice pour rejoindre son père qui est médecin au Nigéria et qui y est resté pendant tout le temps de la guerre, loin de sa femme qu'il aime et de ses deux enfants qu'il n'a pas vu grandir"
^ALAN COWELL (2008-10-10). "Frenchman wins 2008 Nobel in Literature". NYTimes. Retrieved 2008-12-11. "he published "L'Africain" — French for The African — described on Thursday as the story of his father "a reconstruction, a vindication, and the recollection of a boy who lived in the shadow of a stranger he was obliged to love.""
^Le Clézio (2004). "L'Africain" (in French). Librairie Pantoute. Retrieved 2008-11-20. "J'ai longtemps rêvé que ma mère était noire. Je m'étais inventé une histoire, un passé, pour fuir la réalité à mon retour d'Afrique, dans ce pays, dans cette ville où je ne connaissais personne, où j'étais devenu un étranger. Puis j'ai découvert, lorsque mon père, à l'âge de la retraite, est revenu vivre avec nous en France, que c'était lui l'Africain. Cela a été difficile à admettre. Il m'a fallu retourner en arrière, recommencer, essayer de comprendre. En souvenir de cela, j'ai écrit ce petit livre."
^"Ma vie sauvage, par J.M.G. Le Clézio". Jérôme Garcin (in French). Tout le dossier de BibliObs sur J.M.G. Le Clézio. 2003-03-04. Retrieved 11 December 2008. "French"... Le Clézio est notamment l'auteur de "Désert" (1980), "le Rêve mexicain" (1988), et "l'Africain" (2004)"English:"Le Clézio most notable works have been "Désert","le Rêve mexicain" and "l'Africain""