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Category Archive for 'Mauritius'

Extremely emotional and powerfully moving, the novel begins as the story of a seventy-year-old man who has returned to Mauritius with his son, specifically to visit the grave of his best friend, David Stein, who, we learn in the first ten pages, died in 1945 at the age of ten. The speaker, Raj, of Indian descent, has never been able to come to terms with the circumstances of David’s death, and has blamed himself for many years for his own part in possibly hastening David’s end. As a child, Raj was shy and lonely, especially after losing both of his brothers in a flash flood, and though he has always been close to his mother, he fears his brutal father, who beats him and his mother. When fate steps in and makes it possible for Raj to come to know a young Jewish orphan, who is interned in the camp where Raj’s father is a warden, he protects this secret relationship, willing to risk all for David, who has become his “last brother.” Author Nathacha Appanah tells the story in poetic language of great natural beauty and imagery, and her musical cadences give the novel a flow much like that of an opera.

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Nobel Prize winner J. M. G. Le Clezio here creates an adventure story which is also a coming-of-age story and an exploration of culture. Set in Mauritius, where his French family has deep roots and where he now has a home, the novel is unique—filled with lush descriptions and vibrant characters who appeal to the romantic in all of us while simultaneously evoking the violence and horror which mar their lives and make a mockery of “civilization.” The novel’s exotic setting inspires dreams of lost worlds, mysteries, and lives tied to nature and its beauties. At the same time, however, the author is exploring the damage wrought by foreigners whose sole purpose is to tame the land and use it for commercial purposes. The novel often resembles an allegory in that every phase of the action over thirty years teaches a particular lesson or emphasizes a theme, to which the author calls attention. Readers interested in becoming acquainted with Le Clezio’s writing may find this novel an ideal starting place.

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