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The Child: A Privileged Reader in the Eyes of Henri Bosco and J. M. G. Le Clézio Sandra L. Beckett The child is an exceptional being. [...] I think that children of this age, when mey are just beginning to read, [...] are children who live very intensely all these dreams common to humanity.1 J. M. G. Le Clézio, interview with Sandra Beckett ALTHOUGH A GENERATION SEPARATES Bosco and Le Clézio, the two authors have much in common. They are men of the Mediterranean , and both lived in Nice, where they met on several occasions. They are both prolific authors whose corpus is largely composed of mainstream novels for adults, but they are also well-known as children's authors. Each has published approximately thirty works for adults and about eight titles that are considered children's books. Both authors became known to the public when they were awarded the prestigious Prix Théophraste-Renaudot. Bosco won it in 1945, at the age of fifty-seven, for his adult novel Le Mas Théotime (Farm in Provence).1 The same year, Bosco also published a children 's book, L'Enfant et la rivière (The Boy and the River3), which, sixty years later, is probably his best-known work, ranking fourth on the list of children 's bestsellers published by Gallimard Jeunesse.4 Le Clézio gained instant renown when he won the Prix Renaudot in 1963, at the age of twenty-three, for his first novel Le Procès-verbal (The Interrogation).5 His first book for children, Voyage au pays des arbres (Journey to the Land of Trees), was published in 1978. More important, Bosco and Le Clézio share a similar attitude toward childhood, the child, and the young readers of their books published for children . Bosco and Le Clézio are both writers for whom, to borrow Gaston Bachelard's terms, "childhood is the well of being."6 Certainly, childhood is the source of their writing. Bosco admits that his childhood inspires his entire literary œuvre. That is particularly true of his books published for children, which are based on real and imaginary memories of his childhood in the Avignon area. Although Bosco's works are more openly autobiographical, Le Clézio's also bear the mark of his childhood spent in Nice. Whereas Provence inspires virtually all of Bosco's books published for children, most of Le Clézio's books are set in the Mediterranean, and several seem to take place at least partially in Nice. Bosco admits that writing was a means of resuscitating 48 Winter 2005 Sandra L. Beckett and reliving his own childhood. A nostalgia for childhood permeates all of Le Clézio's writing as well. The child is instinctively a storyteller. According to Bosco, a child naturally and incessantly constructs his childhood into a fiction , continually "liv[ing] a novel, a tale" (Diaire, April 1959). Bosco and Le Clézio were both rather solitary children, inclined to be dreamers. The most trivial realities around them became incredible wonders. The vocation of storyteller revealed itself quite early in the lives of these future novelists. Bosco actually created a "fictive childhood" to replace the monotonous childhood of his real life, and that fictive childhood would later inspire his Pascalet cycle. In Bargabot, Pascalet describes his childhood as one in which "the slightest banalities became wonders" (22). Le Clézio's child protagonists are also born storytellers. Bosco admitted that the more he advanced in life, the more he noticed "how much a storyteller, a poet is a tributary of the child that he was."7 Evoking his childhood years spent reading adult books in his grandfather 's library, Le Clézio made a similar confession, telling me that "everything [he] writefs] is marked by that period."8 Interestingly, Bosco and Le Clézio both claim to have started writing at the age of seven, and they both began their precocious careers as authors of adventure stories. When Bosco's first books appeared in children's editions, he confided that his first novel for children was, in fact, written for himself at the age of seven.9 Unfortunately, the school...


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