Evolution and stasis: Representation(s) of the Maghreb in the works of Loti, Gide, Camus and Le Cl\'ezio (Evolution et constantes: Repr\'esentation(s) du site maghr\'ebien chez Loti, Gide, Camus et Le Cl\'ezio)

Date of Completion

January 1994


Literature, Romance




This study analyses the traits which link and contrast Loti, Gide, Camus and Le Clezio in their uses of the Maghrebi site in their works. It also considers how their respective views are a product of their times and how these views have evolved. More generally, it is concerned with the phenomenon of the representation of the "exotic" by a Western culture, namely France. Throughout the study one basic question is dealt with: can we speak of a systematic reappearance of a set of figures and motifs in the texts where non-western cultures are represented by Western writers? Thus, the study, although focusing on French writers in North Africa, is really concerned with the problematics of the representation of the foreign in general.^ The perspective focuses essentially on the 'Outsider's' view of the Maghreb. In this respect, we follow Western man's approach to that 'Otherness' that the North African site presents. This approach leads to a series of questions: how does Western man reflect himself into it? What role does his obsessions and background play in his gaze? What particular emotion or fervor, if any, does he bring into it? Why are such apparently diverse artists attracted by the same landscape? What 'messages' do they find in this world? What 'state of mind' does the French artist bring with him? What are the ingredients of his recreation of his experiences? What typological forms seem to strike the 'Outsider's' eye? What is Western man's reaction in front of the 'blankness' of the desert? How does each writer deal with the 'mythology' that has been constructed about and around the North African world? Can we delineate a certain consistency of views throughout these different writers? What does it say about the continuing interest of the modern French writer to have Le Clezio locate his novel there?^ These writers obviously belong to different historical periods and are thus affected by different series of factors. However, in spite of the differences that exist between the cultural baggage of a turn-of-the-century writer like Loti to that of a contemporary writer like Le Clezio, we are struck by the outstanding similarities. ^