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The Fiction of J. M. G. Le Clézio

A Postcolonial Reading


Bronwen Martin

Since the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to J. M. G. Le Clézio in 2008, there has been a wave of new interest in his œuvre. This book traces the evolution of the writer’s postcolonial thought from his early works to his groundbreaking autobiographical novel Révolutions, arguably his most subversive text to date. The author shows how Le Clézio’s critique of colonialism is rooted in an early denunciation of capitalism and philosophical dualism, and sheds new light on the crucial roles played by Jean-Paul Sartre, Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon in his development.
The author’s close reading of Révolutions reveals a complex system of interconnections between the colonial conflicts from the 1700s to the 1900s, with recurrent patterns of violence, cultural repression and racism. The issue of neocolonialism is addressed and the persistence of the colonial mindset in contemporary Europe and Westernized countries is shown to echo the findings of Paul Gilroy, Max Silverman and Étienne Balibar. The book concludes with an examination of the utopian elements underpinning Révolutions, establishing close affinities with the work of Édouard Glissant and developing the notion of permanent revolution. Themes explored include those of storytelling, cultural memory, cultural identity, language, intertextuality and interculturality.


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The awarding of the Nobel Prize to Le Clézio in 2008 has produced a resur­ gence of interest in his work both in France and internationally. Questions of cultural identity and of interculturality have been addressed in recent studies1 and important contributions to Le Clézio’s postcolonial thought have earlier been made by, amongst others, Marina Salles, Madeleine Borgomano and Bruno Thibault.2 The aim of this book is twofold: first, it seeks to present an overview of the development of Le Clézio’s post­ colonial thought, focusing on patterns of continuity especially in relation­ ship to his first novel Le Procès-verbal (1963). Secondly, it endeavours to give a close reading of the novel Révolutions (2003) regarded by many as Le Clézio’s masterpiece and as the richest and most powerfully subversive of his texts to date. The novel was conceived by the author as a conscious return to his beginnings: in an interview with Jean­Paul Enthoven shortly after its publication, Le Clézio states ‘Vous savez, j’écris toujours le même livre, et je remets sans cesse mes pas dans mes pas. Mes ancêtres bretons, la guerre d’Algérie, Londres et Nice, le souvenir de Salinger, la violence qui s’impose à des jeunes gens qui, du jour au lendemain, deviennent chair à canon potentielle, c’est ça le matériau de Révolutions’.3 In my study the term postcolonial will be used to cover three core areas. The first relates to Le Clézio’s critique of Western...

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