Rending Moments of Material Ecstasy in the Meditative Essays of Two Nobel Laureates: Le Clezio and Camus

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Given the vast and diverse nature of Le Clezio's ever-developing literary repertoire, categorizing the 2008 Nobel Prize recipient poses a veritable challenge to the literary community. In the beginning of the author's prolific career, critics often classified Le Clezio as an "existentialist" or a member of the so-called Nouveau Roman movement. However, many literary experts and lay readers alike clearly recognized the problematic nature of these labels. When the author's work began to evolve drastically opening into new dimensions at the end of the 1970's, these aforementioned literary categories became completely inaccurate and insufficient. The latest honor bestowed upon Le Clezio, who follows in a celebrated tradition of other French writers such as Gide, Camus, Simon, and Sartre once again beckons the entire academic community to delineate the author's position in the French literary canon for generations to come.

The purpose of this study is to explore a common thread that exists between J.M.G. Le Clezio and another Nobel Prize recipient, Albert Camus. Although the work of both writers is profoundly original, the same, enigmatic material ecstasy is present in their respective meditative essays. This exploration will probe the complexities and nuances of these euphoric moments in Le Clezio's L'Extase Materielle and Camus's collection of essays entitled Noces. Furthermore, critics such as Bruno Thibault have expressed the necessity of examining the relationship between Camus and Le Clezio. As Thibault affirms, "there may exist an influence, seldom studied before now, of Camus upon Le Clezio" (vi). Therefore, this investigation also seeks to enrich the plethora of critical studies dedicated to Le Clezio and to contribute to an area in which research has been scant.

In both Le Clezio's and Camus's narratives, human beings as material organisms experience profound sensations of intoxication when exposed directly to the cosmic whole which represents the origin of all life forms. Affirming his desire to fuse with what he terms the serene abyss, the Le Clezian narrator emphatically declares, "je goute deja a l'ivresse de mon epanouissement en lui, sous forme de neige qui fond, d'evanescents parfums qui fuient et fouillent dans l'agglomerat des molecules [...] je viens a toi, je viens a toi" (66). The senses serve as a catalyst which renders these poignant moments of utter ecstasy possible. It is this direct form of communication with the cosmos that triggers and sustains these enigmatic moments of euphoria for the writer of L'Extase Materielle and Le Clezio's protagonists.

As he is strolling through the Tipasa countryside and its surrounding ruins, the Camusian narrator also attempts to commune with the sublime. In reference to the mysterious instants of rending jubilation induced by poignant sensorial contacts, the author asserts, "J'avais au cLur une joie etrange [...] l'incessante eclosion des vagues sur le sable me parvenait a travers tout un espace ou dansait un pollen dore. Mer, campagne, silence, parfums de cette terre, je m'emplissais d'une vie odorante et je mordais dans le fruit deja dore du monde, bouleverse de sentir son jus sacre et fort couler le long de mes levres" (20-21). The vivid description of the force of the powerful sensations associated with the grandeur of nature is clearly reminiscent to that of many lyrical passages in Le Clezio's later fiction. Moreover, although the Camusian narrator does not fully comprehend the enigmatic state of happiness that has permeated his entire being, it must be noted that he cannot deny its presence nor can he refute that the aforementioned primordial "perfume" is the origin of this euphoria.

In spite of the short duration of these ephemeral instants of sensory pleasure, these fleeting moments suggest a negation of the puritanical notion that the "flesh is weak." Both the Le Clezian and Camusian narrator unapologetically seek to take advantage of all that the universe has to offer by means of their senses without any sense of shame or remorse. …


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