The Prospector (book review) J.M.G. Le Clézio

Carol Marks (Translator)


291212: here is a book that uses no particular structural innovations, that on occasion slips to present tense, that sometimes has a certain awareness of its form- but none of this is noticeable, distracting, enervating. this work spurs my own nostalgia and thoughts and feelings of my childhood as the narrator recounts his own childhood idylls...


'boucan' is what/where he names his memories...


every christmas or so when i was a child- until we lived for a year of my father's sabbatical from u on the windward side of oahu, my freshman year at high school- we came to my mom's hometown of waimea on the island of kaua'i for a few weeks. every year, for a few weeks, i came to know the island life just as sugar cane was declining industry and tourism rising, came to know my cousins, my aunties, my uncles, my grandparents when we stayed at their house facing the beach...


those days seem longer in memory, more meaningful, even as i still go every february to my mom and dad's condo, on the same beach, even as i can look with a mature eye on this part of paradise, even as i can see how for my cousins it is just a small unexciting town in the middle of nowhere- except people from around the world come and look in your backyard. i do not lose this place through natural disaster or exile or poverty or war, such as this narrator alexis, i lose this through the natural passage of time, but this is no less irreversible...


so, i only read this today, i have only read this once, i can look at the photos here, i can skype my parents there, it is not too long until i visit- though i might call it return despite the fact most of my childhood was here in cold canada- but reading brings aching heart when i must recall who is no longer there, how the sleepy island has lost this or that magical distant isolation from our north american modern world, how my memories will meet with loss as soon as the flight from seattle or vancouver or san francisco, comes to the international airport of lihue, and that oppressive smell of the planes is overcome by the thousands of tropical smells of the island...


so, of this lyrical recall, this eden- plot is romantic, elegiac, not ultimately important as it becomes clear it is not the dreaming search for gold, it is recovery of past idylls, that draws alexis on to some kind of final acceptance of loss. do all great books cause similar effect for all readers, i do not know, i know only this does for me- for you? i do not know, i can only revel in the way his words do this for me. does not everyone, eventually and inevitably, come to sense nostalgia? here, there, wherever? i do not know...


so, images come of those times, images overlapping, images not less real if i can never date them with any certainty. moments all seem to be from my childhood, for in recall i am always again a child, even when we are talking about books written and read later, or my grandma or my grandpa are no longer alive and perhaps yet even then they ride in our car as we drive home... because of the latitude night falls just after supper and we are driving home on the two-lane blacktop from kapaa or anahola or just hanapepe... and to either side rise the walls of sugar cane and we are embraced in tropical night and breezes and a thousand scents...


i can only hope everyone has similar memories. if not, perhaps, you can follow them here in this book, find them as you lose them in fruitless search for some way home, find them recalled not in money or power, but find them here waiting forever...

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