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The past has receded, become so distant that no memory, no attempt to summon it can possibly bring it back. Nobel Prize winner J.M.G. Le Clézio announces as much to us, even as his slim memoir “The African” attempts to recall a lost time. “The world changes, it’s true, and the boy who is standing over there on the plain ... that boy is so far from me that no story, no journey will ever make it possible for me to reach him again.”
Le Clézio was brought to Nigeria from a French childhood to rejoin the father he hardly knew after the end of World War II. Le Clézio’s father had been trapped in Nigeria for the duration of the war serving as a doctor, unable to get word out, or to receive news of his family’s whereabouts.