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Le Clézio’s Spiritual Quest

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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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Chapter 4: Mystic Children 55

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Chapter 4: Mystic Children Unlike many novelists, Le Clézio often offers few clues about the places and times when his stories occur. Sections of Désert and La quarantine are dated precisely; Le livre des fuites and Poisson d’or are not; nor are most of the short stories in collections such as La ronde et autres faits divers and Mondo et autres histories. Some of the stories are simply timeless; it doesn’t matter where or when they may take place, because the underlying truths are not dependant on any time or place, and of course timelessness is an important concept for Le Clé- zio because of his fascination with Parmenides. In other cases, how- ever, his stories present puzzles. Small details emerge that may have historical importance; there are hints, and no more than hints, as to the places and times when events transpire, and those hints can lead to sudden changes in the meaning of everything that is related. Details are important for understanding both Lullaby and Peuple du ciel. These stories offer a less intense picture of the kind of mysti- cism that features in many of Le Clézio’s works, because the two sto- ries make less use of the Parmenidean idea that everything is actually one. Instead, the mystical union with nature is portrayed as an expe- rience that sets some people apart and that gives them guidance for surviving in the larger world. Peuple du ciel, however, adds Meso- American apocalyptic religion in...

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