cover image Desert


Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, , trans. from the French by C. Dickson. . Godine, $25.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-56792-386-5

One of the few works by 2008 Nobel laureate Le Clézio to be translated into English, this mythic novel tells two parallel stories of descendants of a holy man called Al Azraq. The novel begins with Nour, a Berber boy who bears witness to the failed rebellion led by Sheik Ma el Aïnine against the French in the years leading up to WWI. In the cadences of an incantation, Le Clézio renders the dire suffering of the displaced desert peoples who turn to Ma el Aïnine for guidance. The parallel story, set in the near-contemporary, portrays Lalla, a young woman who lives on the Moroccan coast and spends her days exploring the seashore and listening to the stories of her aunt and the fisherman Old Naman. After escaping an arranged marriage, Lalla lands in Marseille and finds not the gleaming white city of Naman's stories but a cruel place cut off from nature. Le Clézio's vision is cinematic, his language lyrical and the lives he portrays are vivid and convincing. (Sept.)