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  • The Fiction of J. M. G. Le Clézio: A Postcolonial Readingby Bronwen Martin
  • Ruth Amar
The Fiction of J. M. G. Le Clézio: A Postcolonial Reading. By B ronwenM artin. ( Modern French Identities, 103.) Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012. iv + 194 pp.

While much has been written about the work of J. M. G. Le Clézio since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2008, Bronwen Martin’s postcolonial reading of his fiction is a welcome addition as it focuses largely on Révolutions, Le Clézio’s later autobiographical text, and sheds new light on the importance of Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, and Aime Césaire’s philosophies to his work. Martin uses the term ‘colonialism’ in the first instance to highlight Le Clézio’s critique of Western epistemology and Enlightenment philosophy, associated with the civilizing mission. She also draws attention to Le Clézio’s attack on European colonialism in the period starting with the Spanish invasion of Mexico and the beginning of the African slave trade, until the colonial conflicts of the twentieth century, and with a particular focus on the Algerian War of Independence. Finally, she connects the term ‘colonialism’ to attitudes and practices in contemporary Europe and in decolonized states, to show a denunciation of global capitalism in the work of Le Clézio. The book is divided into two parts. The first, made up of one long chapter, deals principally with Le Procès-verbal, and shows that this book provides the basis of Le Clézio’s position against colonialism. The chapter deals also with three other [End Page 264]novels: Désert, in which themes of exclusion and racism are developed; Le Livre des fuites, in which there is a violent condemnation of the civilizing mission and the entire Western humanist enterprise; and Poisson d’or, in which the theme of lost identity is paramount. Analysis of these four novels is enriched by a solid philosophical consideration of the writings of Sartre, Césaire, and Fanon. The second part of the book is more innovative, dealing as it does with Révolutions. It focuses on Le Clézio’s critique of colonialism, violence, and slavery, and on his disillusionment with the revolutionary cause. In a grounded and rigorous enquiry, showing Le Clézio’s close affinities with Sartre, Albert Memmi, and Fanon, Martin explores his attitudes to language and literature. Through effective engagement with the writings of Paul Gilroy, Max Silverman, and Étienne Balibar, Martin also highlights Le Clézio’s emphasis on contemporary patterns of racism and exclusion. The book ends by focusing on the quest for utopia in Révolutions, presenting it as a collective political act of resistance against cultural repression and exploitation. Though slightly undermined by the lack of a strong and well-structured conclusion, this study makes a valid contribution to the growing field of critical writing on Le Clézio.

Ruth Amar
University of Haifa


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pp. 264-265
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