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Le Clézio’s Spiritual Quest


Thomas Trzyna

Le Clézio’s Spiritual Quest is the first English language book to address the development of this Nobel Prize winner’s spiritual ideas and the first book in any language to focus on his abiding interest in the philosophy of Parmenides, Sufism, and Meso-American religion. Le Clézio’s Spiritual Quest explains many puzzling features of his work from this philosophical perspective, including the relative absence of dialogue in his novels and short stories, his portrayals of mystical experiences, his intensely poetic prose, his treatment of time as the repetition of history, and his struggles to develop a persuasive ethical system. Le Clézio is not merely postcolonial, he creates a new kind of spiritual understanding of the cosmos by drawing on sources that have little connection to the main religious and spiritual traditions of the Western and Eastern worlds. Le Clézio’s Spiritual Quest offers an important supplement to French studies of his work, which have explored his works in the context of his French sources. It concludes with a consideration of artistic dilemmas posed by this Nobel Prize-winning author, whose experimental fiction merges poetry, essay, fiction, and philosophy in ways that are enlightening, fresh, and yet often challenging to read. This book guides undergraduate and graduate students of French literature as well as scholars of literature and contemporary ideas to reflect on Le Clézio as a representation of a new direction in philosophical and spiritual voyaging because of his remarkable independence from many contemporary debates and his choice to seek new foundations for human thought in dead religions and what many have considered marginal philosophical and religious traditions.


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Introduction 1


Introduction Several books about Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s work include the word “quest” in their titles. In part, these titles recognize that his work is ongoing. Writing is essential to his life, and his work has al- ways posed questions that he does not fully answer. Le Clézio’s Spiri- tual Quest differs from other critical studies in that it focuses specifically on the religious and philosophical citations in his work in order to set forth an account of what can be construed as a sustained effort to develop a coherent set of spiritual and ethical views that draws on the traditions of many cultures, including traditions that are not often consulted by contemporary thinkers. While it is always risky to impute views to a writer of fiction, if no attempt is made to ascertain a writer’s ruling framework of ideas, readers can miss a great deal of interest and value. If this book meets its objective, it will help readers by offering a road map to Le Clézio’s concerns and his provisional conclusions about faith, reality, and ethics. Le Clézio is a post-Christian writer partly in the sense that like many Europeans, he no longer thinks of Christianity as an important living religion or makes use of its symbols. He is post-Christian also in a deeper sense, because he makes almost no reference to that faith at all. His examination of his father’s life, L’Africain, describes how he and his brother were required to say prayers...

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