Ruth Scurr

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

As far back as I can re­mem­ber, the sound of the sea has been in my ears. Min­gled with that of the wind in the nee­dles of the sheoaks, the wind that never stops, even when you leave the coast be­hind and cross the cane fields, it’s the sound of my child­hood.

Dick­son’s trans­la­tion cap­tures the hyp­notic ebb and flow of Le Clezio’s prose. Read­ers must find their sea legs and be­come ac­cus­tomed to a semi-reg­u­lar sway­ing about be­tween tenses: ‘‘It’s as if ev­ery­thing I’m feel­ing, ev­ery­thing I’m see­ing now is eter­nal. I’m not aware that it will all soon dis­ap­pear.’’ Past, present and fu­ture tug at one an­other like cross­cur­rents.

The pro­tag­o­nist, Alexis L’Etang, lives an idyl­lic life in Bou­can Em­bay­ment, on the is­land of Mau­ri­tius, when the novel opens in 1892. The Prospec­tor is ded­i­cated to Le Clezio’s grand­fa­ther, de­scended from Fran­cois Alexis Le Clezio, who fled France in 1798 and set­tled with his wife and daugh­ter in Mau­ri­tius be­fore it turned from a French into a Bri­tish colony.

Al­though his early life has been one of priv­i­lege, Alexis al­ready sees his home as a ship- The Prospec­tor By JMG Le Clezio Trans­lated by C. Dick­son At­lantic, 352pp, $34.99

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