Friday, 11 November 2011

Wandering Star- J.M.G. Le Clezio

I was introduced to this book by Senior S and she had said "You'll love it". I did.

The story, in brief, is about two young girls  Esther and Nejma who live through the war. It is about hopes and dreams, of death and the ugliness of war. Of spirits that are broken and still survive. It is, as one blurb says, "the story of human suffering , human misery" and gives the reader "lessons in Humanity".

But when I read through the book (in parts) I experienced a whole range of emotions. The book talked of childhood dreams, of freedom, of being hunted down- of being stripped of dignity, of living with the constant fear of death. I felt mortified and angry. At one point I wanted to kill Hitler all over again- I wanted to mutilate all the people who had caused the war.

Clezio describes with painful detail the atmosphere  these people live in. He paints a picture with deliberate slowness, with deliberate clarity that clenches your heart painfully and reminds you of all that a man is capable of doing to another.

The stories of the two girls are enmeshed, they are intertwined because of their suffering, because of their status as refugees, as people being displaced, of being stripped of Nationality and identity. Of living at the mercy of the UN that abandons them, of pinning their hopes on words they don't understand, of living in the dark, in the cold, in hunger with conjunctivitis. It speaks of the lives of the millions of people that bore the brunt of the war, of the millions of refugees, of the millions of people that got exiled and displaced. It speaks of the horrors of the Holocaust- by making Esther's father a memory, by the thundering noise of the motors that drive away the Italian soldiers, by describing the big white house towards the end, by describing the horrors that happened in the cellars under the big white building.

The book broke me down, it made me cry- for the  millions of survivors, for the millions who never lived through it- The book was too heavy for me, it made me stop and take a break before I braced myself for more reading. The tale is haunting, like the stories of O Henry, like the Last Leaf when the painter dies and there is nothing anyone can do, there is nothing one can do but think of that little leaf and a sad man who died painting it. An artist who becomes an artist in the end, someone who never lives to see his masterpiece. Or like the story of Saki- The Refugee- the blueness, the little bundle on one's back, the people starving and walking on with eyes that are haunted, of a bowl of noodles and the kindness of a stranger- and the inevitable death that the story talks about; it stays on in your mind long after you are done. Sometimes lines and descriptions, landscapes and emotions might come back to you uncalled for, it stays on in your mind to help you remember all that Man is capable of.

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