Thursday morning's announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature to J.M.G. (Jean-Marie Gustave) Le Clézio is bringing American recognition to a novelist whose sense of wonder and delight is well known in Europe. Two small independent American publishers are especially exuberant about the award: Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), which published Le Clézio's most recent book, WANDERING STAR -- a pair of connected stories of two young girls, one Jewish, one Palestinian -- and David R. Godine (Boston), who published the author's novel THE PROSPECTOR in 1993.
Publisher's Weekly told Godine's story about finding the work, saying that Godine has consistently asked European publishers for the names of their great writers whose work hasn't been available in English. Le Clézio was one of the names he received from Anne-Marie Solange at Gallimard. Out of his 1993 print run of six thousand copies, Godine was delighted to find he still had five hundred in stock at the time of the award announcement. Since then, he's also announced that he'll issue a paperback edition of THE PROSPECTOR and will publish another Le Clézio novel, DÉSERT, in English.
A third publisher racing to fill orders this week is the University of Nebraska Press, which is even shipping orders to Europe for two Le Clézio titles: ONITSHA (1997) and THE ROUND & OTHER COLD HARD FACTS (2002).
Here's the Godine description of THE PROSPECTOR:
The Prospector is the crowning achievement from one of France's preeminent contemporary novelists and a work rich with sensuality and haunting resonance. It is the turn of the century on the island of Mauritius, and young Alexis L'Etang enjoys an idyllic existence with his parents and beloved sister: sampling the pleasures of privilege, exploring the constellations and tropical flora, and dreaming of treasure buried long ago by the legendary Unknown Corsair. But with his father's death, Alexis must leave his childhood paradise and enter the harsh world of privation and shame. Years later, Alexis has become obsessed with the idea of finding the Corsair's treasure and, through it, the lost magic and opulence of his youth. He abandons job and family, setting off on a quest that will take him from remote tropical islands to the hell of World War I, and from a love affair with the elusive Ouma to a momentous confrontation with the search that has consumed his life. By turns harsh and lyrical, pointed and nostalgic, The Prospector is "a parable of the human condition" (Le Mond) by one of the most significant literary figures in Europe today.
Congrats to the author, and to the publishers who added his work to their lists.