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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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Chapter 6: A Moral World 81


Chapter 6: A Moral World Critics have long distinguished between the experimental novels Le Clézio wrote before Désert, and his later works that tend to have char- acters with realistic names, rather than puzzle-names such as Jeune Homme Hogan and Adam Pollo, and more linear story lines. Many critics, such as John Taylor, have also commented on the way that his later work has become increasingly autobiographical, in the broad sense that he draws his materials not only from his own life but also from the life of his extended family, going back to the generation that emigrated from Brittany to Mauritius. Another group of stories, how- ever, are neither experimental nor autobiographical, nor do they fit into the group of essays and novels that are deeply philosophical, such as Désert, Ourania and L’inconnu sur la terre. La grande vie, which has been reissued in an edition for younger readers, is a prime exam- ple of a short story that differs remarkably in its tone, style, dialogue, philosophical content, and point from much of what Le Clézio has written. These seemingly less philosophical works are important be- cause when they are taken together with the other bodies of work, they suggest that Le Clézio may be exploring alternative solutions to the moral dilemmas entailed by his philosophical predilections. If the universe is One, or one process of emergent being (esti), a person can be morally directed and enlightened by realizing a con- nection to that...

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