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Terra amata Terra Amata is either a visionary masterpiece or cheap apocalyptic schlock—either way the end product is a strange and wonderful mixture of Michael Bay and French existentialism Chancelade is a perpetual boy traversing the stunningly evocative language of this novel His surroundings shapeshift from sentence to sentence allowing him occasional moments of beachside lucidity or ludic Oulipian antics but mostly he’s like a cyberpunk Scheherazade caught in immense thickets of doom laden prose thundering out the page like a pulpit preacher seconds before a meteor impacts the earth like in the Permian period drenching the world in one billion trillion tonnes of seething hot lava for over 80000 years A novel that runs entirely on opaue imagery and surreal lyricism isn’t an easy sell but Le Clézio succeeds by speedballing his prose with urgency lunacy and a black we’re all going to die humour otherwise known as “gallows” I can’t think of a finer novel to get hanged from somebody explain to me why I'm supposed to take this guy seriously The author leads us through the life of Chancelade from his luminous childhood till the end or the beginning telling us that the protagonist is going back to what was before sun clear air peace sea strength beauty; because everything is eternal we are here all the time with the sun and the rain and the wind and the ice and the fire Birth and death are only fables In this timespan called life we are only playing the game with ourselves to lose as slowly as possible suffering as little as possible our enemy is us we are fighting against time We live in hell and heaven joined together so we must suffer and love There was really nothing to be hoped for outside that place that time that destiny One would never penetrate the defences of the unknown never get away from this old earth Everything there was was there You had to play and move about and think without stopping with all your delirious and contradictory powers You had to go on with the adventure once begun without wanting to torn to pieces by doing so You had to give each thing its name and sign each move and event with all the hatred and all the love you were capable of How were you to say you were happy at that moment on that part of the earth with that woman with yourself and with everything else? It wasn’t easy to say and yet you had to say it You had to forget the fatal issue pain decay the minute but effective assaults of time You had to forget the void the being abandoned the being alone and live out your own adventure with joy Nothing counted any but this explosion of life an explosion beautiful and uniue Out of the long night opaue insensible there issued now this ball of fire luminous than a million suns shut up inside the body and blazing there The glare is harsh it hurts it flays but the pain is also the greatest of pleasures it is the power of life There were so many things to believe so many things to love hate touch drink look at feel understand listen to judge suffer hope There was so much fear so much evil gentleness noise or cold From farthest time or space this wealth had come to Chancelade a man among men an inhabitant of this planet and had changed him into a bomb Everything was there present palpable It called for than words it called for shouting for howling at other people at the top of your voice in the street Maybe they wouldn’t have understood but that’s what you ought to have done open your mouth and yell as loud as you could at three o’clock in the afternoon with the veins standing out on your neck and temples bursting In the dusty street a dog sleeps in the sun with its mouth open amid a forest of human legs That is a poem The rain drips down on the roofs windscreen wipers moan back and forth A curved poem based on the earth a poem with a living womb Starving children look up with bloodshot eyes like stupid jewels in their great dwarfs’ heads A poem transparent and immediate deep as the wind airy as light huge as the great dirty lake Or a toothless old woman leans against the wall and stares uncomprehendingly A soldier kneels in the mud and the blood runs slowly from his mouth It is always the same unwritten poem the story that is hummed under the breath or dreamed Everywhere around me and around you too everyone reads these strange yet close words they write them with their gestures and mark them down with their bodies and their desires On the closed book closed or almost closed the tide of the world breaks and pounds unceasingly What is inside it matters less after all than what is outside What is one day’s reading in a lifetime? What is one line of writing among all the endless scribbling that fills the world? There is not just one word one sun one civilization There are millions of things everywhere Isn’t the poem there or there or in your eye the eye of the beholder? This was my second Le Clézio book Terra Amata the Beloved Earth is daunting I would not recommend this as a starting point to reading Le Clézio's works It deeply troubled me depressed me made me close my eyes for a while and try not to thinkThe beginning had an interesting scene when the young protagonist Chancelade plays with a bunch of potato bugs It was a riveting scene that ended in tragedyThe book follows Chancelade throughout his entire life as the headings of the chapters may indicateOn the earth by chanceI was borna living manI grew upinside the drawingthe days went byand the nightsI played all those gameslovedhappyI spoke all those languagesgesticulatingsaying incomprehensible wordsor asking indiscreet uestionsin a region that resembled hellI peopled the earthto conuer the silenceto tell the whole truthI lived in the immensity of consciousnessI ran awaythen I grew oldI diedand was buriedThis is an experimental novel reminding me a little of Italo Calvino There was a section written in morse code a section in sign language C Open hand profile little finger down Closed hand thumb crosswise Closed hand thumb up Hand profile index pointing up Closed hand thumb and little finger up This scene went on for 5 pages And of course in the section called 'saying incomprehensible words' the dialog was something like this Woolikanok mana bori ocklakokok Zane prestil zani wang don bangBut even with it's uirky yet effective 'tricks' I found the book deeply depressing The section 'I died' ripped me I felt it was I breathing that last death rattle And when I was finally buried only then did I sigh with a bit of relief at finishing this bookLe Corbusier said that God was in the details We are in the details We are that pebble on the beach the heart that was pierced on the battle field in 1812 the potato bug walking aimlessly around the sidewalk we are the words of this book the sun the stars the mole under the girls left breast and that layer of rock between the granite and flint This book is full of detailsI think having a beer with Le Clézio back in 1963 may have been a downer But then I am beer also and I am the belch of relief after having one too manyI gave it 4 stars for successfully messing with me Le clezio is close to being my second favourite author first being Dostoyevsky The architect Le Corbusier reportedly said that God was in the details; others have claimed the same about the devil And it's in the details that Le Clézio finds Terra Amata the beloved Earth if my Latin serves; whether what he finds is God or DevilThis is the first Le Clézio I've read and supposedly not the best starting point most people who have read him suggest his debut Le Procès Verbal The Interrogation as a sampler of his early avant garde work but this was the one that was still in the library and I can't say it's scared me off further exploration In fact I liked it a lotTerra Amata is in its way a very bare bones thing It's the story of the life of a man named Chancelade de la chance? from his early childhood to his grave And it's not like his life is all that special; he's a pretty ordinary guy and not much out of the ordinary ever happens to him What makes it than just boring ultra realism is how the story is told See Chancelade likes details Right from the beginning even as a small child we see him extrapolating entire worlds from the smallest things trying to understand his world by submerging himself in it trying to put words to everything he sees and feels the whole cosmos in a grain of sand bit You should be everywhere at the same time on the mountaintops when the aurora borealis flares up in the depths of the sea by the volcanos' mute explosions in the trunks of the trees when the rain slowly starts falling and each drop detonates on each leafLe Clézio's world isn't a cold inhospitable place; it's a world that's teeming with beauty and Chancelade wanders through it in constant infatuation as if drunk on everything's existence and becoming At times this is a horriffic experience anyone who's read The Hitch hiker's Guide To The Galaxy might compare it to the Total Perspective Vortex if you see how insignificant you seem in the vastness of the world you're supposed to go crazy Except he doesn't not really; he just has to find a way to live this incredible thrill ride of sensory overload that even an ordinary life can be The world was too alive you couldn't defeat it Space had too much space time too many seconds days weeks milennia You could no longer do anything to understand You could no longer meet the frightening gaze of the absolute You had to dive head first into vertigo and work love hate suffer be happy kill give birth because there was nothing else to doWriting something that goes or less like this for 220 pages well OK there is ordinary life and dialogue and other characters in there too reuires a lot of the author but the young Le Clézio is up to it with a few notable snags; when Chancelade falls in love he spends a few short chapters speaking in sign language morse code and invented languages to try and express his inner turmoil which nah But even then the prose is precise I've rarely come across a writer who's this good at navigating rather complex existential morasses with a language that's this clear vivid and well fun; like I've said elsewhere I'm occasionally reminded of the extatic free form prose of Clarice Lispector while the slight meta fictional overtones call Perec or Calvino to mind OK so the novel tends to crawl up its own ass a few times I suppose you can only write so much about the experience of everyday mundanity and the pro and epilogues that talk directly to the reader don't really do it any favours But most of the time it's a real joy to read As in life you take the bad with the good hope the latter outweighs the former hold on in the sharp curves and feel the tickle in your belly Nerves nerves everywhere Based on two books this and The Book of Flights I'm convinced that young experimental Le Clezio was a worthy writer After the initial J M G who? in the American press the reaction that accompanies every new Nobel Prize in Literature a lot of these literary hacks went out and bought some of the newly reprinted Le Clezio novels originally published in the 1960s and pretty much out of print since then then proceeded to dismiss them all as dated a favorite dismissal from the oh so cutting edge experimental novels that weren't worth reading before going on to bemoan the Academy's idiocy at having overlooked Don Delillo and Philip Roth Much of Terra Amata doesn't play well for me and the young author too often indulges his fondness for jeremiads but the book is shot through with magnificent scenes starting with its opening chapter a slightly sarcastic interrogation directed at the reader Why buy this book? What do you hope to get out of it? etc etc For Chancelade the world is teeming with beauty wonder and possibilities From a small boy playing on the beach through his adolescence and his first love to the death of his father and on to the end of his own life he relishes the most minute details of his physical surroundings whether a grain of sand an insect or a blade of grass as he journeys on a sensory adventure from cradle to grave Filled with cosmic ruminations lyrical description and virtuoso games of language and the imagination Terra Amata brilliantly explores humankind's place in the universe the relationship between us and the Earth we inhabit and ultimately how to live When Jean Marie Gustave Le Clézio was named laureate for the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature I was like many others in wondering who? His standing in English speaking nations save for a couple of low profile translations in the States was practically non existant And this is an author who has published over forty books since his 1963 debut It’s been a frustrating wait then for publishers in the UK to rush release some backlist titles into print No doubt translators up and down the country are soldiering away at of his worksRead my full revire here One of the most visceral reading experiences of my life This is a vivid account of the highs and lows of one man's life but presented in such a way that he represents Modern Man and the uniue psychologicalspiritual experience of humansThis is one of my favorite books which is why I gave it five stars despite several experimental sections that don't really work that well This book is an exciting glimpse at how personal and true and life changing experimental literature can potentially be even if not completely successful here

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