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Desert Paperback – 1 Feb 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Export ed edition (1 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848873808
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848873803
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.7 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,231,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A rich, sprawling, searching, poetic, provocative, broadly historic and demanding novel, which in all those ways displays the essence of Le Clézio. As a reflection on colonization and its legacy, it is painfully relevant after 30 years.' --New York Times

'Dense, highly measured, intensely imagistic... A book one must admire for its profound seriousness, for its scorched-earth poetics and for its rendering of a lost world.' --Douglas Kennedy, The Times

'[Le Clezio's] tales have epic and exotic qualities...he writes with a moral seriousness and engagement... These stories of displacement and exile are both timely and epic... This is one of Le Clezio's major works... It reveals the history of colonial France in the Arab world.'
--Andrew Hussey, Financial Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

The international bestseller, by the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2008, available for the first time in English translation.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Le Clezio's 'Desert' is an elegy to a bygone age, to a lost way of life and to a lost people. Ostensibly, the novel links two children across the ages; a young boy, Nour, at the turn of the twentieth century travelling with his tribe across the desert to escape the encroaching Christian colonisers; and an orphaned girl, many years later, who despite living in a shanty town with her aunt, is relentlessly drawn to the desert and to the nomadic way of life. It's a loose link though and like the sands they both walk on, any significance between their stories shifts as the novel progresses.

Where Le Clezio's novel is beautiful is in its depiction of the desert. This is both broadly cinematic, full of the wide horizon scorched by the burning sun and intensely personal with the description of the trail left in the sand by a passing snake or the sharp stones that cut the feet, among others. Le Clezio spends a huge proportion of the novel deep in the sands of the desert, bringing the heat, the wind and the grains of sand so vividly to life that nothing else seems to have any real significance.

In many ways therefore, Nour's story (by far the shorter of the two) puts a human context to the desert. His life shows the ancient synchronicity between man and the extremes of the desert, stripped as his story is of almost all traditional or religious details. Lalla's story in turn seems simply to underline the atmosphere he portrays in the desert: Her story is far from entirely credible (how does she travel without papers,how does she achieve so much in so little time, how does she return without the ability to read and why is everyone suddenly obsessed with her eyes?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book began with a wonderful description of walking through the north African desert, but it became repetitive and tedious. A succession of swollen lips, parched throats and bleeding feet, with one day much like the next. That story is told through the eyes of teenage Noor. A later story is intertwined with it, the story of teenage Lalla, who eventually emigrates to the slums of Marseilles. I found the descriptions of Marseilles more interesting than those of the desert. Lalla's life in Marseilles becomes unbelievable: she becomes a photographer's model, despite being several months pregnant. The pregnancy seems to last for a year or more, and she returns to north Africa to give birth in the sand dunes.
The book is translated from the French into American English, which can be irritating. Nevertheless there is a flow of balladry about it, and the story is reminiscent of Homeric epics. There is a political message about the effects of colonialism on the conquered people. Perhaps there is meant to be a glimmer of hope with the birth of Lalla's child - or perhaps not.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An exhilarating glimpse into a rarefied world of the senses -- a world that is stripped clean of all but the basics but all that is needed to experience rapture -- and this in comparison to the sordid nature of the world in general. A trip for the soul - tragic but uplifting at the same time.
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