Prospecting Happiness

The Prospector by J. M. G. Le Clezio

Le Clezio’s novel was a treat.  To quote another reviewer, it is a rich, great read.  The novel centers around the life of Alexis L’Etang, a white colonial in Mauritius.  Alexis lives a primitive, pastoral childhood in Boucan, at one with the sea and land.  He shares his joy for his surroundings with his sister, Laure. Natural disaster forces the family out and Alexis spends the rest of his life searching for the same sense of home that he felt in Boucan using the legendary Unknown Corsair’s treasure as a vehicle for this.  His subsequent travels take him to English Cove, Rodrigues, the French front of WWI and back home again.  Two primary themes presented themselves to me in the novel: first, the stars and constellations and second, the European colonial experience.  Regarding the stars, Alexis finds himself turning to them in all of his times of need.  The stars serve as a platform to express consolation at his father’s death, the path to the treasure and refuge in the hurricane.  The second theme, the colonial experience, is expressed to me, primarily through the cyclone.  The colonists came to Mauritius believing their method of civilization was superior.  As a result, the colonists cultivated the land in their way.  The unpreparedness of the colonists regarding the cyclone proved their means were wrong.  Conversely, the nomadic life of the Manafs proves that a sturdier method exists.  This notion is demonstrated in the metaphor of the rats told by the helmsman in regard to one of the islands they visit.  Rats invaded, permeated themselves throughout the pure land and adulterated it.  Overall, this was an excellent book that I enjoyed reading.

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