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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 5: Apocalypse or Unification? 69

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Chapter 5: Apocalypse or Unification? Peuple du ciel concludes with an apocalyptic vision. The blue star Sir- ius, in the form of a Hopi divinity, destroys mankind, while in the non-spiritual Western world, the destruction is carried out by B-52 bombers flying west over Arizona toward Korea for what will pre- sumably be World War III and the beginning of a nuclear winter. Le rêve mexicain proposes that the world has lost a fundamental insight into the nature of history because of the destruction of Meso- American cultures, an insight that might have persuaded us that his- tory is cyclical, not linear and progressive, and that each cycle ends with a cataclysm, just as the many Meso-American cultures died out either through conquest or through ecological collapses that led to starvation and the disappearance of large populations. The totalitarian and theocratic structure of the Aztec nation, with its enormous collective sacrifices and rigid social distinctions, are in tension with Le Clézio’s advocacy of a personal spirituality that is grounded on individual discoveries of relationship with the force be- hind nature, whether that force is felt as a Sufi saint, such as Es Ser in Désert or as the strange atmosphere of a Christmas night on the Sar- gasso Sea in Hasard. Moreover, while it is relatively easy to ascertain the connections among Islamic Sufism and the other traditions widely followed across the world that affirm some form of Perennialism, drawing a connection between a Sufi or Sufi-like...

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