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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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Part I The Earlier Texts, 1963-1997


Part I The Earlier Texts, 1963–1997 Chapter 1 Le Procès-verbal, Le Livre des fuites, Désert and Poisson d’Or This chapter will trace the evolution of Le Clézio’s postcolonial thought from his first novel, Le Procès-verbal, published in 1963, to Poisson d’or which appeared in 1997. Special attention will be accorded Le Procès-verbal envisaged by the author as the introductory chapter to a single book. In an interview with Pierre Lhoste in 1970, Le Clézio af firms: ‘Je préférerais vous dire qu’il n’y a pas plusieurs volumes séparés. C’est plutôt une con­ tinuité. Je n’ai pas voulu écrire des romans dif férents mais continuer la même histoire, à la fois la mienne et celle des autres en plusieurs chapitres. Donc Le Procès-verbal, c’est le premier chapitre: à la fois la découverte de la littérature et une sorte de présentation, la façon dont j’envisage la vie’.1 Indeed, Le Procès-verbal will be seen to spread considerable light on the novel Révolutions published exactly forty years later and conceived both as a return to Le Clézio’s philosophical and political beginnings and as ‘le point d’orgue d’un cycle’.2 Set in Nice of the early 1960s, Le Procès-verbal is the story of the social rebel and outsider, Adam Pollo, who, suf fering from amnesia and uncertain ‘s’il sortait de l’armée ou de l’asile psychiatrique’ (12), embarks on a quest to discover who he is....

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