He's Rapidly Becoming a Favorite Writer

I continue to read, very slowly, through M. Le Clézio's collection The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts.  It is a collection to be read slowly.  I think rapid reading would tend to be overwhelming.  Each story needs to be given its breathing space, time to grow, expand, and form in imagination.

from "Ariadne"
in The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts
J. M. G. Le Clézio

On the banks of the dry riverbed stands the high-rise project. It is a city in its own right, with scores of apartment buildings--great gray concrete cliffs standing upright on the level asphalt grounds, surrounded by a sweeping landscape of rubble hills, highways, bridges, the river's dusty shingle bed, and the incinerator plant trailing its acrid, heavy cloud over the valley. Here, it's quite a distance to the sea, quite a distance to the town, quite a distance to freedom, quite a distance from simple fresh air on account of the smoke from the incinerator plant, and quite a distance from human contact, for the project looks like an abandoned town. Perhaps there really is no one there -- no one in the tall gray buildings with thousands of rectangualr windows, no one in the stairwells, in the elevators, and still no one in the great parking lots where the cars are parked. Perhaps all the doors and windows have been bricked up, blinded, and no one can escape from within the walls, the apartments, the basements. An[d] yet aren't the  people moving around between the great gray walls -- the men, the women, the children, even the dogs occasionally -- rather like shadowless ghosts, disembodied, intangible, blank-eyed beings lost in lifeless space? And they can never meet one another, never find one another. As if they had no names.

From time to time, a shadow slips by, fleeing between the white walls. Sometimes one can get a glimpse of the sky, despite the haze, despite the heavy cloud drifting down from the chimney of the incinerator plant in the west. You see airplanes too, having torn free of the clouds for an instant, drawn long, cottony filaments behind their shimmering wings.

M. Le Clézio obviously loves language and winds words out in long and sinuous streams, beautifully formed sentences and thoughts that burst with life. The images dazzle and disorient. Despite the fact that much of what he writes about is depressed and potentially depressing, there is a power, life, vibrancy to the prose (at last in these stories) that is extremely attractive.  He creates a mirage in his writing and creates a world unique in present literature.  I must say that some elements of his writing remind of elements of Albert Camus, but M. Le Clézio is a distinctive and enticing voice.  You know, sometimes it's good to be led to a voice worthy of our attention.  So perhaps we shouldn't be quite so much in arms when the Nobel Committee names someone we've never heard of.  As I've said elsewhere--it shouldn't be a surprize if someone unknown to us is named.

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