Onitsha tells the story of Fintan, a youth who travels to Africa in 1948 with his Italian mother to join the English father he has never met. Fintan is initially enchanted by the exotic world he discovers in Onitsha, a bustling city prominently situated on the eastern bank of the Niger River. But gradually he comes to recognize the intolerance and brutality of the colonial system. His youthful point of view provides the novel with a notably direct, horrified perspective on racism and colonialism. In the words of translator Alison Anderson, Onitsha is remarkable for its “almost mythological evocation of local history and beliefs.” It is full of atmosphere—sights, sounds, smells —and at times the author’s sentences seem to flow with the dreamy languor of the river itself. But J. M. G. Le Clézio “never lets us forget the harsh realities of life nor the subsequent tragedy of war.” A startling account—and indictment—of colonialism, Onitsha is also a work of clear, forthright prose that ably portrays both colonial Nigeria and a young boy’s growing outrage.
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Winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature, J. M. G. Le Clézio was born in Nice in 1940 and is one of France’s best-known contemporary writers. He has published more than thirty novels and nonfiction works. In the course of the last four decades Le Clézio has won numerous prizes, including the Prix Renaudot for his first novel. His works have been translated into many languages. Alison Anderson is the author of Hidden Latitudes. She has worked as a writer, translator, and teacher and currently lives in Mill Valley, California.Language Notes:
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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