The Swedish Academy, in awarding J.M.G. Le Clézio the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, praised Desert as Le Clézio’s “definitive breakthrough as a novelist.” Published in France in 1980, Desert received the Grand Prix Paul Morand from the Académie Française, was translated into twenty-three languages, and quickly proved to be a best-selling novel in many countries around the world. Available for the first time in English translation, Desert is a novel composed of two alternating narratives, set in counterpoint. The first takes place in the desert between 1909 and 1912 and evokes the migration of a young adolescent boy, Nour, and his people, the Blue Men, notorious warriors of the desert. Driven from their lands by French colonial soldiers, Nour’s tribe has come to the valley of the Saguiet El Hamra to seek the aid of the great spiritual leader known as Water of the Eyes. The religious chief sends them out from the holy city of Smara into the desert to travel still further. Spurred on by thirst, hunger, and suffering, Nour’s tribe and others flee northward in the hopes of finding a land that can harbor them at last. The second narrative relates the contemporary story of Lalla, a descendant of the Blue Men. Though she is an orphan living in a shantytown known as the Project near a coastal city in Morocco, the blood of her proud, obstinate tribe runs in her veins. All too soon, Lalla must flee to escape a forced marriage with an older, wealthy man. She travels to France, undergoing many trials there, from working as a hotel maid to becoming a highly-paid fashion model, and yet she never betrays the blood of her ancestors.
From the Reviews
In scenes of shimmering intensity, Le Clezio contrasts nature’s stark and majestic clarity, from scouring sand to the incinerating sun and the vast gleaming net of stars, with the chaos, toxicity, and injustice of human life. A long time coming for English-language readers, Le Clezio’s incandescent masterpiece couldn’t be more relevant.
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
The Prospector is the crowning achievement from one of France’s preeminent contemporary novelists and a work rich with sensuality and haunting resonance. It is the turn of the century on the island of Mauritius, and young Alexis L’Etang enjoys an idyllic existence with his parents and beloved sister: sampling the pleasures of privilege, exploring the constellations and tropical flora, and dreaming of treasure buried long ago by the legendary Unknown Corsair. But with his father’s death, Alexis must leave his childhood paradise and enter the harsh world of privation and shame. Years later, Alexis has become obsessed with the idea of finding the Corsair’s treasure and, through it, the lost magic and opulence of his youth. He abandons job and family, setting off on a quest that will take him from remote tropical islands to the hell of World War I, and from a love affair with the elusive Ouma to a momentous confrontation with the search that has consumed his life. By turns harsh and lyrical, pointed and nostalgic, The Prospector is “a parable of the human condition” (Le Monde) by one of the most significant literary figures in Europe today.
From the Reviews
Le Clézio’s prose is so sensual and rhythmic it’s hypnotic. — Boston Phoenix
A novel of intense beauty. — Review of Contemporary Fiction
A remarkable work. — Booklist, starred review