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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Words Without Borders Covers a Man Who Has Crossed So Many

imageWords Without Borders’ James Marcus has a report on Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio in Conversation with Adam Gopnik at the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center last Friday, part of their ongoing coverage of the 2009 PEN World Voices Festival:

Le Clé zio was born in Nice in 1940, and spent his early childhood in that area. But when he was eight, he and his mother and brother sailed to Nigeria, where his father had been serving in the British army. And that commenced a lifetime of wandering for the author, who has also lived in England, Thailand, South Korea, and Mexico. (To complicate matters further, Le Clézio has deep roots on the island of Mauritius, where his paternal ancestors first settled in 1798. In fact, he holds dual French and Mauritian citizenship, and considers his connection to France more linguistic than strictly geographical.)

“...Everything is connected,” Le Clézio declared, alluding not only to a pantheistic identification with the natural world but to the darker continuities of human history. Colonialism, for example, is an immediate and intimate phenomenon for him, which he observed at close range during his childhood years in Nigeria. “I still remember violent images of African people in chain gangs,” he said, “walking in the sun, being led to a place where they would build a swimming pool for a colonial officer. ” He also acknowledges that his own hands are, from an historical point of view, anything but clean. After all, the French in Mauritius were active in the slave trade. “When I read Faulkner,” Le Clézio said, “I know what he means. I am from the same culture.” “The slave-owning culture?” Gopnik asked. “Yes,” came the answer.

Read the full article here and more feedback from Lux Lotus who made it a family outing, LaNew-Yorkaise (this one is as in-depth as you can get) and the National Book Critics Circle blog which noted Gopnik’s quote, “Well, we can say we gave France spam and white Wonder bread and they gave us Le Clezio, not a bad deal.”

PEN World Voices Festival returns to the Y on May 1 for “Readings From Around The Globe” with Bernardo Atxaga, Petina Gappah, Mariken Jongman, Michael Ondaatje, Daniel Sada, Hwang Sok-yong, Antonio Tabucchi, and Colm Tóibín.

Upcoming Readings:

  • E.L. Doctorow: Apr 29
  • David Grossman on Bruno Schulz, Introduced by Jonathan Safran Foer: May 4
  • “Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Contest Winners, Introduction by Mary Jo Bang: May 11
  • Richard Wilbur: May 21 (Afternoon and Evening)

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