Tag-Archive for ◊ Austin ◊

Author:
• Saturday, January 29th, 2011

J.M.G. Le Clezio was born in 1940 in Nice, France from French parents who were first cousins and originally from Brittany. Both their families emigrated to Mauritius in the 18th century which was at the time a British colony and where Le Clezio’s father was born.

In 1947 Le Clezio had to travel to Nigeria with his mother and brother to join their husband and father who was serving as a doctor there, during the Second World War. The family returned to Nice in 1950.

Le Clezio went to school in Nice, in 1957. With his baccalaureate in literature and philosophy in hand, he continued his studies at Bristol University, London University and l’Institut d’Etudes Littéraires in Nice. He received his M.A. Degree in 1964 from the University of Aix-en-Provence and wrote his thesis on Mexico’s early history, which entitled him to a doctorate degree at the University of Perpignan in 1983.

Le Clezio grew up with two languages, French and English. He taught at universities in Bangkok, Mexico City, Boston, Austin and Albuquerque to mention but a few.

Le Clezio has obtained several prestigious literary prizes :
Prix Renaudot in 1963, Prix Larbaud in 1972, Grand Prix Paul Morand de l’Académie française in 1980, Grand prix Jean Giono in 1997,Prix Prince de Monaco in 1998, Stig Dagermanpriset in 2008, The Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008 and he was rewarded the highest Mexican award for foreigners,The Aztec Eagle in 2010. He was made chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1991 and was promoted to officier de la Légion d’honneur in 2009.

Le Clezio has been married twice, in 1960 and in 1975. He has two daughters, one from each wedlock.

Le Clezio wrote and sold many books which have been translated into several languages. He is one of France’s well known prestigious contemporary writers.

His novel, Desert, was published in France in 1980. Twenty-eight years later it was singled out among all his work by the Nobel Prize Academy as his “definitive breakthrough as a novelist”.

The story of Desert is the tale of two young Moroccan teenagers from different generations, Nour and Lalla. They both belong to a nomadic tribe of warriors, called “the blue men”. They are both struggling for survival in a different way and their lives never connect. Their two stories run in parallel throughout the novel and take place in two different time periods, Nour being born in the nineteenth century and Lalla much later in the twentieth century.

The first period which starts from 1909 and ends in 1912, is related by Nour, a young teenager, whose family left everything behind to join the march with other North African tribes who also had to leave their homes, due to the advancing French colonialists pushing them out of their native land. They march stoically, an endless exhausting journey in the inclement North African desert climate, hoping to reach the haven promised by their old and wise venerated religious leader, Ma el Aïnine. Unfortunately Nour will witness the defeat of his people’s rebellion due to hunger and exhaustion against the better equipped and trained French army.

The second period which ends in the near contemporary, is the story of Lalla, a young wild and solitary teenager. She is an orphan raised by her aunt in a poor coastal, Moroccan shanty town. Lalla can’t read or write but that doesn’t seem to matter to her, as long as she can listen to her aunt’s stories and the tales of the old fisherman, Naman and as long as she is close to nature and feels part of it. Being wild at heart, she likes the sea, the sand, the animals and the insects.

Therefore, when circumstances lead Lalla to Marseilles, she feels bewildered in the big city. Completely cut off from nature she feels like a fish out of water and isn’t happy despite becoming famous as a front cover model with great career potential. Away from her beloved wild nature back home, she couldn’t survive. Lalla is a lonely young woman and the only way for her to be happy again is to go back to nature where she once belonged and where she feels the meaning of real freedom. She also longs to see her dearest, beloved deaf and dumb best friend, Hartani, the shepherd.

In Desert, the description of the landscape is so real and vivid that the reader can almost feel the heat of the scorching sand during the day, the bitter, bleak cold at night and the vastness of the endless North African desert. Nature in the novel constitutes an important part. It has its rules, its beauty, its harshness but also its whims.

Desert is not a thriller and doesn’t rely on a plot — it should be read and savoured slowly, like all good things in life. Desert is just sheer beautiful writing with a historical background and a great deal of love and compassion. A poetic profound contemplation with an enhanced enchanting leitmotiv, a sort of an ode to Nature in general and to the North African Desert and its nomadic people in particular.

Category: Book Reviews  | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  | Leave a Comment
Author:
• Wednesday, March 04th, 2009

Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in the South East of Ireland in 1955. His father who was a school teacher and a local historian, died when Toibin was twelve years old.

Colm Toibin is the second youngest of five children. He went to St Peter’s college in Wexford and later studied English and History at University College in Dublin. After graduating he left Ireland and taught English for four years in the Dublin School of English in Barcelona (Spain).

He went back to Ireland in 1979 and worked as a journalist at In Dublin, then at Magill magazine followed by the Sunday Independent in Dublin, was a contributor to Esquire, the London Review of Books, New Statsmen, The Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Review.

He has been visiting professor at Stanford University and The University of Texas in Austin. He also lectured at other universities, including Boston College and New York University. Colm Toibin lives and works in Dublin. He is one Ireland’s leading contemporary writers.

Toibin won several awards. He is the author of number of fiction and non-fiction works.
Fiction:
The South, 1990
The Heather Blazing, 1992
The Story of The Night, 1996
The Blackwater Lightship, 1999
The Master, 2004
Mothers and Sons, 2006.

He has also written ten non-fiction books and a play staged in Dublin in 2004 called: Beauty in a Broken Place.

Mothers and Sons is Toibin’s first collection of short stories. Three long stories and six short ones of which, eight stories are set in contemporary Ireland and the last one in a village in the Pyrenees in provincial Spain.

In his book the author describes the relationships forged between mothers and sons in their adulthood; the very fine unseen tie woven between them,their lack of communication and understanding with what it entails of heartbreak and sadness, despair, loneliness and sometime guilt. The author also tackles the problem of how to deal with one’s losses of a dear one.

Toibin succeeds in conveying with great sensitivity and melancholy, the psychology that shapes, each time differently, mother to son or son to mother. Whether the son is a professional thief, or faced with his estranged mother, or a paedophile priest, or sad over his mother’s death, or suffering from depression, or looking for her under the snow.

The nine stories, despite the book title which infers love and warmth, are all gloomy, unhappy and devoid of the cosy feeling that could be expected between mothers and sons. Instead there is the deep pain inflicted by sons on their mothers and the consequences of mothers’ behaviour on their sons, which combined with the harsh reality of life that each side is faced with, helps to create an isolation between the two sides.

Toibin’s choice of short stories, lack of landscape description, or any usage of flowery prose for this delicate subject is deliberate and most suitable. His way to make the readers feel the pain of the character, by keeping the intensity of the feeling which could have been easily lost in a long story.

Toibin’s description of endurance, separation and longing with such depth, shows a keen understanding of the complex human psychology and its frailty, which is movingly haunting and thought provoking.

The author didn’t impose himself as a moralist, in fact the reader is not sure who is the unscrupulous and who is the sympathetic character because of the palpable but unspoken emotions. All the stories are left without a classical ending intentionally. Toibin wanted to withhold the conclusion in order to confront his readers with a conflict,dramatise it and leave it at that.

Mothers and Sons is melancholic like all other Toibin’s novels. The answer of the author to that, is in one of his interviews, he says : “When I started out writing I would have considered myself to be quite happy. I’m not a sad boy, but the books are full of terrible melancholy. I’ve learned about it from writing the books. If I had known all this about myself before I started, I probably would have gone into serious therapy instead of writing.”

Toibin’s style of writing is pure and neat without being cold. Mothers and Sons continues to collect international acclaim.

Category: Book Reviews  | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  | Leave a Comment