The Prospector, or in French, Le Chercheur d'or, meaning "The Finder," is a beautifully crafted telling of one man's life long quest to find what he has lost.
Alexis L'Etang is the narrator and has a Homer-esque quality of calling his listeners to the adventure. Without giving you too much, Alexis and his family lose everything when a massive tropical storm devastates their home in the French Caribbean. Destitute, Alexis's fathers dies a broken man leaving his only son maps and clues to a lost treasure buried somewhere on a remote and exotic island. Alexis, believing he can restore his surving mother and sister to a life of comfort and ease begins his search, facing rough seas, curious pirates, island natives, and The First World War.
Considered one of the most prolific modern writers of France, the author JMG Le Clezio unfolds a tale of not only this individuals quest for treasure, but the changes that occur in him while on this adventure.
One of my favorite parts about this read was the effect of the pacing. The narration works almost as a metronome, allowing the reader to feel the drama of a workers revolt one chapter, the sedation of a night on a starry beach in another, and the jarring and unpredictable life of trench warfare. I also appreciated the change of diction in the work. Alexis' patterns are subtly shifted from the thought processes of a young boy to man searching for meaning. Both have complex and emotional lives, but are manifested and expressed in different ways. Alexis as a child describes the freedom of escaping in fields of sugar cane only to return to the warm arms of his mother, while Alexis the man recognizes his physical and mental escape from the trials of his world on the open seas finding comfort in himself and his mission. The final chapters of the book, Alexis' language is wistful and reflective, as he has come to the end of his journey.
The theme of freedom is woven throughout the novel, along with an examination of being overly pessimistic versus realistic. Interesting ideas for discussion, for sure!
Something that was pointed out to me was that this is the second in my project to read (at least one) the works of every Nobel Prize winning author to date. Most of the authors have clear political agendas and my first read, Land of the Green Plums, held up this idea. This novel I feel was more about the work of the prose and the story rather than any political comment. It may be in fact that this novel was less politically charged than previous works by Le Clezio, and I do intend to return to this author one day. I may then have to revise my thoughts on this.
I would recommend this book, though only if I knew you liked the adventure genre. It's a great read- moving surprising quickly even though it's 400 pages, and I did find parts of it very touching. You'll have to let me know what you think!