The African

J. M. G. Le Clezio, trans. from the French by C. Dickson. Godine, $22.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-56792-460-2
Even in translation, Nobel Prize in Literature winner Le Clezio's sensual language seduces the reader in this emotive memoir of his childhood spent in Ogoja, a remote village in Nigeria in the late 1940s. The first half recounts his disorienting and formative experiences as a young boy in an unfamiliar country with a stark, violent landscape. Le Clezio describes learning about the world through the "immodesty" of the human body, predating language, with axiomatic declarations such as "freedom in Ogoja was the supremacy of the body." In the second half, Le Clezio begins a hesitant, almost incurious seeking out of his mysterious, authoritative father, whom he did not meet until he was eight years old. The man, referred to simply as "my father," was an ambitious, unconventional doctor who traveled extensively throughout South America and eventually brought the family to colonial Africa. Le Clezio's father's pursuit of a career "practicing medicine in emergency situations, with no equipment, no medicine" in remote areas, and his seeming ambivalence toward any sort of ‘normal' life, even when returning to France after leaving Africa makes for a fascinating portrait. However, readers are only given the briefest of glimpses. The memoir does not feel particularly urgent or meditative, but it is ephemeral and filled with paradoxes, as childhood memories, and an adult's attempt to recapture them, often are. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/07/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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