2 min

Tempête (“Tempest"), by J.M.G. Le Clézio

Published in 2014 by Gallimard, Tempête is a striking work by J.M.G. Le Clézio in more than one respect. This novel consists of two novellas, one set in Japan, the other in West Africa and Europe, linked by their explorations of childhood and the search for identity.

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Le Clézio, a literary traveller

 J.M.G. Le Clézio's life is novel-worthy in itself: born in 1940 to a Breton family living in Mauritius, he describes himself as a culturally-Mauritian French-language writer. Evolving from the formal experimentation of his first novel Le Procès-verbal (“The Minutes), (1963) part of the Nouveau Roman movement with its strong echoes of The Stranger (“L’Etranger”) by Albert Camus, towards the intimate works interested in cultural exploration that he began to write in the 1970s, Le Clézio’s creative journey is built on this dichotomy. Thanks to its two-part structure, Tempête bears the marks of this unique style.



Between Japan, Africa and Europe

The first story is set in Japan and features an old man who meets a teenage girl named June. Together, they uncover their personal and family histories. They compare dreams and disappointments in moving passages where they discuss their memories. The second story, for its part, begins in West Africa. The narrator, Rachel, a child of rape, is rejected by her mother. Following financial difficulties, the family flees to Europe and Rachel experiences the pain of being uprooted.


In search of the self and in search of the Other

Tempête describes two women and the stories of their lives. In Japan, Africa and Europe, through the pages the reader travels around the world and discovers the universal nature of the search for identity. For Le Clézio, each encounter is an opportunity for self-discovery and to journey towards one's origins, which are often shaped by absence and rejection.


From Hemingway to Le Clézio

Popular in the United States, the literary genre of the novella, situated between the short story and the novel, seeks to combine unusual settings and plots with a unique tone, as in Animal Farm by George Orwell or The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. By adopting this form for Tempête Le Clézio tackles and describes the constant, universal elements at the heart of unique existential experiences.

The Institut français and the project

Tempête has been translated into Lituanian, with the support of the Institut français. Through its translation support programmes, the Institut français participates in the global dissemination of French-language literature. 


Find out more about the translation support programmes here.