Comparative Essay Of L'amant And L'africain - French Literature - Comparative Essay

1528 words - 7 pages

L’Écriture Migrant Comparative Essay Neshann Lacuesta
The pursuit of identity and belonging is experienced inevitably by people who are affected
by migration and colonisation. The novels L’Amant (1984) by Marguerite Duras and
L’Africain (2004) by J.M.G. Le Clézio explore characters who tackle this quest of identity,
particularly the two protagonists, who both feel oppressed by the place which the society
implies they belong to. Both texts are highly autobiographical, describing the construction
of an identity in the lives of their respective authors.
This essay will compare and contrast the texts in regard to the themes of belonging and
identity affected by relocation and displacement and how characters strive to establish
self-identity through their family and memories.
Characters from both novels suffer from an identity crisis. This perplex feeling comes from
the uncertainty of one’s origins and belonging. The loss of identity experienced by the
characters who strive to recreate themselves using memories, mentally and physically
such as photographs is explored by both authors.
Duras writes about a young French girl living in Colonial French Indochina as her family
goes bankrupt due to the death of her father. Although as French colonists, they are given
access to many privileges and they are still considered as superior, despite the fact that
they are impoverished. However, for the same reason, her family experiences isolation
due to the difference of their skin colour from the majority of the population surrounding
The fifteen-year-old protagonist escapes this isolation and dissimilitude as she develops a
sexual relationship with a significantly older and wealthier man from China as she crosses
L’Écriture Migrant Comparative Essay Neshann Lacuesta
the Mekong River to leave her hometown Sadec to go Saigon, where she finds a sense of
freedom and thus, discovering her own identity.
The aspect of alienation and distinction from the population is also observed in L’African,
published by French writer Le Clézio who was born in the south of France. The protagonist
attempts to better understand his estranged father, who was also French but was brought
up in Mauritius. It is his parents origins and their past that confuses the character about his
identity, given that his mother was born in metropolitan France and was never raised in
Mauritius, unlike his father.
“Ma mère n’a pas vécu là-bas (elle est née à Milly).”
(L’African, p 51)
In fact, the text explores the traditional connection between place and identity, it questions
whether a person “belongs” in a place where they were born and grew up in, or simply in a
place which has impacted his or her life the most. The latter argument is clearly supported
by the novel as his father discovers “le prétexte à rompre avec la société
européenne.” (L’Africain, 51) by serving as a field doctor in remote British colonies. This
breakaway from the oppressive Europe at the time offered his father a sense...

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