cover image The Prospector

The Prospector

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio. David R. Godine Publisher, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-976-3

Le Clezio, who is best known for his Prix Renaudot-winning first novel, The Interrogation (1963), has created a gentle portrayal of a man haunted by visions of his ideal childhood. The round of seemingly endless summer seashore days and lessons at the knee of their mother, comes to an end for Alexis L'Etang and his sister Laure with their father's financial ruin and his death. The elder L'Etang's one legacy is an obsession with the treasure of the ``Unknown Corsair,'' supposedly buried on Rodrigues Island. Determined to recapture their earlier prosperity, Alexis leaves for Rodrigues in 1910, where he is bewitched by the quest for the treasure, by the soothing routine of sunny days and by the love of a native girl, Ouma. Four years later his second idyll is interrupted by WW I and Alexis leaves the Indian Ocean for the very different geography of Ypres and the Somme. It is clear that Le Clezio, whose ancestor was a French corsair who settled on Mauritius, loves his setting--maybe too much. His writing is deeply evocative and descriptive even when simply furthering the plot, but many of his lengthy descriptions of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Alexis's ocean voyages between them are overwrought. (Nov.)