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Book Title: The Prospector|
The author of the book: Jean-Marie G. Le Clézio
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 332 KB
Edition: David R. Godine Publisher
Date of issue: September 1st 1994
ISBN 13: 9780879239763
Read full description of the books The Prospector:It begins here:
As far back as I can remember I have listened to the sea...
And it begins here:
The island of Mauritius.
It is Alexis L'Etang who listens to the sea. First on Mauritius in 1892, a multi-cultural boy on a multi-cultural island. But you know how these things go. Even there are racial strata. Alexis is not black. There are early lessons.
The idyllic life of Alexis is shattered, first by a storm, then by the death of his father. His family (Alexis, his mother and sister) is financially ruined, and beholden now to Uncle Ludovic, not so much a character as an abstract idea of harsh capitalism.
His father's legacy is a fool's quest: a cryptic map and notes by the legendary Unknown Corsair, a hidden treasure.
And so, when things seem bleakest for the family, Alexis quits his position with Uncle Ludovic and takes to the sea, to the nearby island of Rodrigues, to look for gold.
"On the west coast of the island at a spot where the sea pounds the coast there is a stream. Follow the stream to its source, where you will find a tamarind tree. Eighteen feet from the tamarind tree the stonework that hides an immense treasure begins."
Sounds adventurous, if self-centered, but Alexis is no Maqroll. He finds the Corsair's hiding places*, and he finds himself bewitched by the beautiful Ouma, a Manaf.
Ouma dives into the lagoon, harpoons an octopus for them to roast. She rubs sand over her black body, then his white one. A local custom.
It is Ouma who imparts what wisdom there is:
"Gold is worthless. You mustn't be afraid of it. It's like scorpions who only sting those who are afraid of it."
"All of you out there, you desire gold above everything because there is nothing more powerful. You make war for it. People everywhere will because of this obsession."
Prescient she is. Soon there is indeed talk of war. Alexis signs up. Why not? He is at Ypres, he is at The Somme. There are no novices by that time. Eventually he is sickened. Typhoid. The doctor takes his temperature and squeezes his stomach, then says with a certain sadness, "In the end it's lice who win the war."
That's as much of the story as I'll tell, except to say that he finds himself on a beach wailing Ouma-ah! Ouma-ah! Kinda like Rocky and Adrian. It's told in a first-person somnambulist style - As I walk on the blood pounds in my head and I feel feverish. - which I'm told is a rich French literary tradition.
This is best read as a kind of reverse nesting doll, how a small story or vignette exposes a larger idea, and then a larger one.
Reading this, that stink bug of colonialism kept popping into my mind. Le Clézio draws a kindly colonial (Alexis' father) as distinct from the brutal one (Uncle Ludovic). Ouma teaches us they are one and the same.
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____
* Not saying if he found the treasure.
Read information about the authorJean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, better known as J.M.G. Le Clézio (born 13 April 1940) is a Franco-Mauritian novelist. The author of over forty works, he was awarded the 1963 Prix Renaudot for his novel Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) and the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature.
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