J. M. G. Le Clézio, La Quarantaine: Literature, Contagion, Confinement

Charles Forsdick, University of Liverpool

Over the past year (I write in March 2021, first anniversary of global acceptance of the gravity of Covid-19), the importance of reading in a context of pandemic has become increasingly apparent. In a period of contagion, books fulfill multiple functions. They provide distraction for those on whom immobility and confinement are imposed, permitting vicarious travel when its physical equivalent is largely prohibited. Literature also plays a bibliotherapeutic function, supporting people through emotional distress, enhancing mental well-being and complementing other processes of healing. [1] At the same time, plague- or pandemic-related literature provides a roadmap—ethical, philosophical, even medical—that permits navigation of the social challenges of the coronavirus, often described as ‘unprecedented’ but clearly (if understood in historical perspective) anything but. Several books have gained prominence in such circumstances. This is particularly true of Albert Camus’s La Peste, an allegorical deployment— in the context of the Nazi occupation of France—of the spread of contagious disease. The novel seems to have attracted particular attention as it focuses on the existential crises faced by those affected and the pragmatic or principled choices that they make. [2]

Works have risen to prominence according to their national contexts as well as their availability in translation, meaning that certain core texts appear to have gained transnational visibility (Camus’s was joined, for instance, by Kafka’s Metamorphosis), whereas others have been limited to the linguistic zones in which they circulate. In France, there have featured: Les Tragiques by d’Aubigné, Jean Giono’s Le Hussard sur le toit, Marcel Pagnol’s unfinished novel Les Pestiférés and, the subject of this article, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s La Quarantaine. Le Clézio’s 1995 novel of quarantine and confinement was recommended by L’Humanité in its list of “grands textes relatant des épidémies.” It appeared also in Laurence Houot’s “quinze livres inspirés par des épidémies à lire ou à relire,” selected for franceinfo. Yesmine Karray similarly included La Quarantaine in her five novels proposed for readers of Les Echos who were seeking to “mieux comprendre notre réaction face au coronavirus” – her commentary even created dramatic parallels between the confinement of Le Clézio’s characters and another situation then prominent in the global media: “Huis-clos qui n’est pas sans nous rappeler la mise en quarantaine des passagers du Diamond Princess à la suite à la pandémie du Covid19.” For Naomi Titti, in an article for France Culture, La Quarantaine joined the works by Camus, Giono and Pagnol (as well as the French translation of Philip Roth’s Nemesis and Laura Kasischke’s 2009 novel In a Perfect World) in a catalogue of examples of how “certains génies de la littérature se sont emparés des épidémies,” allowing readers to “pallier l’ennui qui [les] guette” and perhaps even discover “un miroir de [leur] propre expérience de la contagion.” [3]

This was not the first time in recent years that Le Clézio’s novel of contagion and confinement had been deployed as source of historical parallel and creative elucidation in a context of contemporary pandemic. Karim Simpore, in a 2016 article on the broader literary contexts of the Ebola virus, drew on La Quarantaine to suggest how its author encourages readers to “tracer des parallèles entre les questions d’ordre social, politique, économique, écologique, culturel, et spirituel.” For Simpore, who sees the study of literary representation as a key element in any pluridisciplinary response to health crises, Le Clézio’s characters “vivent des expériences qui les amènent à s’interroger sur leur identité, sur le sens de leur vie, mais aussi et surtout sur la portée des valeurs humanitaires.” [4] This analysis seems equally pertinent for readings of La Quarantaine in a context of Covid-19. For Le Clézio’s novel – at the core of which is the account of two brothers, Léon and Jacques Archambau, unexpectedly confined on Flat Island off Mauritius as a result of an unexpected outbreak of smallpox onboard their ship following the illegal embarkation of two characters in Zanzibar – resonates in many ways with concerns raised by the current pandemic.

Written from the perspective of a contemporary (1980s) narrator, a second Léon (Léon II, the grandson of Jacques), the novel is an account of the unreliability and obfuscation of family memory, and the transgenerational scars left by traumatic, silenced pasts. The first Léon (Léon I) is represented as imagining the conditions of his own ancestors’ quarantine, using fragments from his grandparents’ accounts, seeking additional information by visiting Mauritius himself, and filling in gaps where details appeared to have been expunged. Léon II, the narrator and, like his grandfather Jacques, a doctor, has become “un médecin sans clientèle, sans travail, errant avant de partir pour le bout du monde,” (498) who emerges as more of a reflection of his great-uncle Léon. Exploring the impact of confinement in an insular location, the narrative focuses on responses to imposed immobility and on how this enforced condition, in a context of contagion, changes the characters’ relationships to each other and to the spaces in which they dwell. As such, the novel explores how rapidly altered scales of engagement lead to practices of microspection, but also to more damaging obsessions with policing difference, notably ethnic and social. At the same time, given that the central character Jacques is a doctor, the novel foregrounds the medical dimensions of quarantine, outlining the physical and mental impact of disease and studying its implications for collective psychology.

Reading Le Clézio’s novel in the time of Covid-19 allows aspects to emerge relating to its semiotics of space and the impact of confinement and immobility on its characters. In comparing La Quarantaine to two works by Patrick Chamoiseau – Guyane: Traces-mémoires du bagne (1994) and Un dimanche au cachot (2007) – Justine Feyereisen has already foregrounded these themes to explore the impact of confinement on the captive body in such an “univers concentrationnaire.” [5] Her focus is, in particular, on tensions between solidarity and the dissolution of community. This selection of works would seem initially to be distinctive, with Chamoiseau’s emphasis on enslavement and the incarceration associated with penal transportation, Le Clézio’s on confinement in a context of contagious disease. La Quarantaine transcends, however, any reductive emphasis on the outbreak of smallpox that restricts its unwilling characters to their shared insular space and transforms Flat Island into the centre of a network of places, spaces and narratives. In the process the novel associates colonial history and the ethnic hierarchies it generates across time with the intra- and intergenerational dynamics within the Archambau family.

The title of La Quarantaine underlines these spatio-temporal dimensions. The term quarantine implies, of course, the imposition of a cordon sanitaire within which movement is limited to prevent the spread of disease. The practice is striking in its indiscriminate nature, for unlike more focused medical isolation, it affects a whole population, healthy and sick alike, and almost inevitably generates frustration, anxiety and suspicion amongst those forced to coexist reluctantly in a restricted and closely policed environment. The term is, however, also a temporal one, alluding to the forty days’ isolation (quaranta giorni) required of incoming ships to Italian ports during the Black Death in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although time is central to Le Clézio’s novel – in terms of the complex chronological frames (from the 1850s to the 1980s) in which the narrative is located, but also of the confined characters’ obsession with the length of their stay – it is the spatial aspects that are underlined in another key element of the paratext with which the novel opens, the 1857 map of Flat Island produced by the British Government Surveyor Thomas Corby. The British took Mauritius from the French in 1810, abolished slavery in 1835, and thus created the need for those indentured labourers transported from India who play an important role in Le Clézio’s novel. The map is the product of imperial cartography (it was part of a wider report on lighthouses in the colony), a reminder of the dynamics of power (among colonizers, as well as between colonizer and colonized) underlying the central spaces of La Quarantaine. At the same time, its large scale details the places of the characters’ confinement: Flat Island itself, with the jetty in Palissade Bay and the so-called “coolie camps,” and the smaller Gabriel Island to the east, reachable on foot at low water, where the sick in the novel are sent for confinement within confinement, to a prison within a prison.

This paratext creates, therefore, an opening sense of quite literal insularity (and of the etymologically associated isolation) – but this is an insularity that betokens extroversion as much as it implies introversion, mobility as much as immobility. This is because, for a narrative of confinement set primarily in the narrow space of Flat Island, La Quarantaine is characterized by surprisingly high levels of movement, as if the imposition of sessility in confinement generates its opposite as a corollary. The interrupted journeys of Léon I, Jacques and his wife Suzanne are entangled with other accounts of travel, notably the imagined itinerary of the mother of Suryavati (the woman of Indian origin with whom Léon I falls in love; her name is given by the narrator Léon II), who had travelled from India to Flat Island as a young girl with an adopted Indian mother in the context of the 1857 Siege of Cawnpore. At the same time, the contemporary narrator describes his own journey to Mauritius in 1980, in an attempt to reengage with family history and understand the separation of his family following the experience of quarantine in 1891.

Central to the novel’s focus on this interplay of mobility and immobility is the spectral figure of Arthur Rimbaud. Early twentieth-century poet and theorist of the exotic Victor Segalen – who himself sought traces of the poet while in Djibouti in January 1905 – described him as “le double Rimbaud,” a figure split between adolescent enfant terrible and the merchant, trader and explorer he would become, having abandoned poetry, in the second half of his life. “Cette vie de Rimbaud, l’incohérence éclate, semble-t-il, entre ses deux états,” notes Segalen. “Sans doute, le poète s’était-il déjà, par d’admirables divagations aux routes de l’esprit, montré le précurseur du vagabond inlassable qui prévalut ensuite. Mais celui-ci désavoua l’autre et s’interdit toute littérature. Quel fut, des deux, le vrai? Quoi de commun entre eux?” [6] For Le Clézio’s narrator Léon II, Rimbaud is also double but differently so. He is a character split between, on the one hand, the mobility with which, as “l’homme aux semelles de vent,” he is customarily associated and, on the other, the immobility to which illness prematurely reduced him before his death in November 1891. The novel opens in 1872 with an account of this “voyageur sans fin”: the contemporary narrator Léon II recounts the childhood memories of his grandfather Jacques, for the first time away from his home in Mauritius, encountering Rimbaud in a Parisian bistro. Poised on the threshold, the youthful poet is described as momentarily “immobile” (15), but his dynamic, disruptive lawlessness – “ses cheveux longs et hirsutes, son visage très clair aux traits enfantins” (15) – rapidly becomes a source of fascination for the brothers Jacques and Léon. It is Léon I in particular who studies his poetry, is inspired by his example. This initial encounter acquires a foundational status: “C’est dans le bistrot de Saint-Sulpice, un soir de l’hiver 1872, que tout a commencé.” (26) Almost twenty years later, stopping in Aden en route for Mauritius, Léon I encounters Rimbaud again as his brother Jacques, now a doctor, is called to the poet’s deathbed: “l’homme est couché tout habillé, ses nerfs tendus, sa voix rendue rauque, comme un cri étouffé.” (46) Jacques impatiently returns to his wife onboard their ship while Léon I stays on shore, listening to the dying man’s incoherent ravings about the multiple journeys that shaped his life. As with the novel itself more broadly, apparent immobility is associated with restless mobility, not as a binary pairing but as mutually constitutive conditions.

These two encounters – with the drunken poète maudit in Paris, and the dying traveller in Aden – create an introduction to and frame for the core of the novel, i.e., the over-400 pages devoted to the section on “la quarantaine.” The ailing Rimbaud encountered in Aden foreshadows the illness that will confine the travellers to Flat Island, but it is rather this doubleness, poised between hypermobility and immobility, that reflects the tensions at the heart of the text. [7] The claustrophobic confinement central to the novel and the quarantine to which the characters are subjected seem to belie the errance that is often seen to characterize Le Clézio’s wider oeuvre. [8] What begins as a temporary stay – “quelques heures de quarantaine sur l’île Plate” (63-64) – becomes a seemingly interminable detention, punctuated by the regularly frustrated desire for completion of the short final stage of the journey to Mauritius. In the midst of an account of emerging everyday rhythms – whether in exploration of the island by Léon I and the botanist John Metcalfe, or the daily longing for rations and, better still, departure of the majority of confined characters – the threat of illness predominates: the smallpox that has forced the quarantine, or the malaria already endemic on the insular space. Symptoms of fever or fatigue are noted in detail, signs that the sufferers might be required to withdraw to Gabriel Island, the place of isolation within quarantine. Jacques dispenses his limited supplies of quinine, paying particular attention to the health of his wife Suzanne. Central to the narrative are accounts of decline and, on occasion (as is the case with Suzanne herself), recovery.

Death remains omnipresent. In his exploration of the island, Léon I faces these realities of contagion, describing in a makeshift ward for Indians afflicted by the worst symptoms “une odeur terrible, que le vent apporte par bouffées, une odeur de mort.” (249) The novel depends, however, on a more complex spatial dynamics that complements the chronological layering of its narration, juxtaposing 1980s with 1870s and 1890s. Part one is situated in Paris, part two in Aden, and the fourth and final part in Mauritius as the narrator Léon II seeks in the present to fill the gaps in his family memory. The restriction of the protagonists of La Quarantaine to Flat Island in part three, by far the longest section of the novel, leads to a recalibration of their relationship to space. Whereas the majority of the confined travellers experience insular space as deeply oppressive, introverted, disabling and even anxiogenic, for Léon I, the island becomes a source of extroversion: “aucun endroit ne m’a semblé aussi vaste, aussi mystérieux. Comme si les limites n’étaient pas celles du rivage, mais […] au-delà de l’horizon, rejoignant le monde du rêve.” (70) Léon I indulges in a form of vertical travel, exploring parts of the island that his fellow travellers avoid. The response of most of the Europeans is complicity in turning spatial distinctions – notably between their own temporary living quarters and those of the indentured Indian workers on the island – into invisible barriers to be policed. Léon I, however, approaches such gradations of space in a radically different way, not least through heightened sensory engagement – he detects, for instance, in approaching the settlement of the island’s Indian inhabitants: “une odeur très douce, très légère, une odeur de pain, de cari, de persil, qui s’étend alentour malgré les bourrasques.” (78) In what becomes a phenomenology of confinement, he repeatedly experiences the smells and soundscapes of the island in a way that permits him to move beyond any initial fear of contagion.

In parallel to Léon I’s subversion of confinement is the more empirical approach of the botanist John Metcalfe, the scientist whose diary entries punctuate the account of quarantine. [9] Metcalfe obsessively maps and exhaustively catalogues the flora of Flat Island, paying a fractal attention to details that most other travellers ignore and discovering in the plants sources of self-sufficiency and sustainability, e.g., he notes a screwpine (or pandanus) that would serve “pour la fabrication de sacs et de sandales” (83), he identifies a place that would be “idéal pour commencer une plantation” for the cultivation of indigo. (85) At the same time, his notebooks focus on scant traces of the built environment, paying close attention to the palimpsestic stages of “la plus ancienne occupation de l’île,” (95) to memory-traces of “les premiers colons.” (107) The botanist engages, therefore, in his own form of sustained microspection, deploying his scientific knowledge to perform a positivist engagement with the spaces of confinement that complements Léon I’s own particular burrowing into the detail – historical, cultural, human – of place. Léon’s experience of the island begins with the panoramic as he surveys its topography from the vantage point of the old lighthouse, but as his experience of the space evolves, he views it from multiple angles and understands its topography to be “illimitée, inconnue.” (340) A space lived initially as one of confinement and immobility becomes a radically different one, striated by “les traces des gens qui ont vécu pendant des mois ici.” (381) The island becomes a place of ruins that tell different stories, permit engagement with different histories. It is the appearance of Suryavati and the emergence of Léon I’s love for her that plays a symbolic role in these processes, allowing him to discover aspects of the island’s topography, such as the lagoon and reef, from which he had previously been excluded, and to understand the resources – fish and flora – that Flat Island provides. [10]

Léon I’s response to confinement and contagion contrasts significantly with that of others experiencing quarantine with him. The domineering character who takes charge of the European sector, Véran de Véreux, exploits the confinement on Flat Island to impose an almost carceral regime on those stranded with him: space is split between east and west, and a curfew imposed, although it becomes clear that the diseases in circulation pay little attention to such measures (as the mixing of European and Indian victims in isolation on Gabriel Island makes very clear). In the acceptance of segregation between the European and Indian inhabitants of the island, Léon I detects an “impression d’étouffement” as he senses that his fellow travellers ‘se sont enfermés dans leur propre prison.” (143) In turning to Suryavati, he discovers resources – access to indigenous knowledge, new ways of encountering the island space, the existence of previously unimagined stories – that allow him to transcend the physical limits of the island and the binaries with which these are associated: “je suis,” he notes, “comme l’homme d’Aden, que j’ai vu couché dans son lit, le regard durci par la souffrance. Je n’ai que les souvenirs et les rêves.” (144) The parallel with Rimbaud suggests an acknowledgement of immobility but also its transcendence through the use of the imagination. Léon I’s willingness to engage with life in the Indian village, to change his appearance to resemble “un coolie indien” (161) reflects the transformations he undergoes. La Quarantaine may be read as dismantling the exoticist tropes of the robinsonnade tradition, but the novel also narrates how Léon I experiences quarantine as a radical extroversion. His relationship with Suryavati and openness to cultural métissage allow him to transcend his confinement and be drawn into a form of Glissantian ‘Relation’, according to which Flat Island becomes a node linking London, Paris, Marseilles, the Hugli river, Guyana, Trinidad and Fiji. (323)

The core location thus becomes the site of confirmation and contestation. The experience of quarantine offers the novel’s characters the possibility of unmaking and remaking, but it is this potential that ultimately drives a wedge between the brothers Jacques and Léon. The latter observes the former shortly before they leave the island: “Il est en haillons comme moi, il est hâve, famélique, rongé par la fièvre et la dysenterie, pieds nus dans ses souliers, et ses lunettes cassées, et pourtant il continue à commander, à régner en maître.” (415) Whereas Jacques is confirmed in his Western settler mentality, Léon I undergoes a process of becoming-other as his objective description of the island reveals the chasm between a utopian engagement with the space of quarantine and the dystopian approach of those who arrived with him. For Bruno Thibault, reading the novel through a Jungian lens, Léon I sheds his identity as a colon and becomes a marginalized character in his own right. [11] The European travellers confined on Flat Island transform a paradise into a space of segregation (with the indigenous sector policed by Sirdar Hussein, the European segment by Véran de Véreux). Fear of contagion recreates a stratified colonial microcosm. In a context of confinement, the self-replicating nature of such hierarchies of segregation becomes apparent: the passengers arriving from Zanzibar are interlopers in a space already inhabited by a population of Indian origin, but even within an atmosphere of levelling associated with death and disease, colonial divisions are reimposed. Léon I’s radical response is to disappear with Suryavati from the novel as well as from his family’s history. In these reactions of the two brothers, Marina Salles sees diametrically opposed responses to the challenges of contagion that bring us back to Camus own account of plague: “Jacques et Léon Archambaud incarnent, en écho à La Peste de Camus, deux réponses possibles au ‘mal’ qui règne dans La Quarantaine: la révolte radicale et le consentement à être des ‘médecins’.” [12]

The modern-day Léon II, revisiting Mauritius in 1980, takes a day trip to Flat Island in an attempt to discover the story of his great-uncle (absent from family history since the quarantine was lifted, when he and Suryavati had left their confinement almost ninety years previously): “L’île Plate n’est qu’un rocher abandonné, semé de tombes sans noms, avec ce môle en ruine et le lagon où les pêcheurs emmènent les touristes des hôtels pour une journée de robinsonnade.” (536) The account that he narrates belies, however, any such evacuation of history and memory: it reanimates the spaces of quarantine with the fears and fantasies of those once contained there, stages the tensions between mobility and immobility, explores varying responses (collective and individual) to confinement and contagion.

The spontaneous tendency to provide prescribed reading – including works such as Le Clézio’s La Quarantaine – in the context of Covid-19 has not been accompanied by any prescription as to how these works should be read. Literature has rather been presented as resonant with the circumstances and challenges of the present, as opposed to serving as a definitive roadmap for their navigation. As noted at the opening of this article, the proliferation of reading lists has served multiple purposes, recognizing that confinement creates a need for distraction while suggesting also that cultural representations of plague, pandemic and disease permit reflection on the ethical, existential and practical questions raised by the current contagion. How might La Quarantaine speak into this present? At the heart of the novel is a tension between mobility and immobility as the confinement of the island space on which much of the narrative is situated is contrasted with the Leclezian emphasis on errance that underpins much of the work. In our current context, it is transnational mobility that has rendered the pandemic global, in terms of the movement of people but also of a virus that proliferates, mutates and reveals the porosity of boundaries and borders. Such hypermobility triggers the immobility evident in confinement and lockdown, but Le Clézio notes that any relationship between the mobile and the sessile is not a straightforward binary. The space of Flat Island is at once one of introversion and extroversion, an illustration of what Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith see as the paradox of islandness, i.e., its “simultaneous boundedness and limitlessness.”  [13] La Quarantaine describes an interest, through processes of microspection, in the fractal dimensions of island space that resonates with the current moment of multiple lockdowns when other texts of microtravel, such as Xavier de Maistre’s Voyage autour de ma chambre, have acquired a new relevance. In their different ways, John Metcalfe and Léon Archambault engage in vertical travel, rediscovering the diversity of the place to which they are restricted. For Metcalfe, this involves close, scientific engagement with nature, whereas for Léon I it triggers a more holistic experience that leads him, thorough his engagement with the Indian community on the island, to understand those racialized and structural inequalities seemingly always accentuated by a situation of pandemic.

Unlike his fellow European travellers, solipsistically obsessed with escape and the re-establishment of a pre-contagion status quo, Léon I turns his space of confinement into one of openness, linked – not least through the memories of Rimbaud and the stories he receives from Suryavati – to other places, to other histories. The pertinence of Le Clézio’s novel for the present time is perhaps inscribed most clearly in these divergent responses. While the localized outbreak of smallpox in La Quarantaine is ostensibly very different from the global Covid-19 pandemic, both situations share a concern with re-imagining a post-contagion future. Jacques represents what appears to be the majority position amongst the Western characters: a desire for those who have survived to return to their former circumstances, in their case the reassuring social and ethnic stratification of colonial Mauritius. Léon I emerges from his experience of quarantine radically changed, seeking instead to learn from confinement and to seek the alternative way of living encapsulated in Leclezian errance. The mystery of his disappearance along with that of Suryavati at the end of the novel is a reminder, similar to that implicit in Camus’s La Peste, that periods of crisis are not necessarily a suspension of normality but can serve rather as a radical questioning of the logic of perpetuating any status quo ante. On the night before the end of quarantine on Flat Island, Léon I claims “tout doit être nouveau.” (470) Emerging from a global pandemic that has revealed major economic, political and environmental weaknesses while accentuating engrained social inequalities, we are reminded by La Quarantaine that imagining an alternative future should be more than simply a possibility but must become a shared priority.

J.-M.G. Le Clézio, La Quarantaine (Paris: Gallimard/Folio, 1995)


1. See Alison Flood, “Research finds reading books has surged in lockdown,” The Guardian (15 May 2020); Emmanuel Stip, Linda Östlundh and Karim Abdel Aziz Karim, “Bibliotherapy: Reading OVID During COVID,” Frontiers in Psychiatry 11 (2020). The article includes Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s La Quarantaine in the potential reading list proposed.

2. See, for instance, Carlos Franco-Paredes, “Albert Camus’ The Plague Revisited for COVID-19,” Clinical Infectious Diseases 71 no. 15 (2020): 898–99; Meaghan Emery, “To Watch Someone Die: La Peste,” Fiction & Film for Scholars of France 11 no. 1 (Oct 2020): https://h-france.net/fffh/reviews/to-watch-someone-die-la-peste/.

3. “L’Humanité met à votre disposition des extraits de grands textes relatant des épidémies,” L’Humanité (16 April 2020). Laurence Houot, “Coronavirus: de Sophocle à Stephen King, quinze livres inspirés par des épidémies à lire ou à relire,” (3 March 2020) https://www.francetvinfo.fr/culture/livres/roman/covid-19-de-sophocle-a-stephen-king-quinze-livres-inspires-par-des-epidemies-a-lire-ou-a-relire_3853615.html [accessed 20 March 2021]. Yesmine Karray, “5 romans ‘épidémiques’ pour mieux comprendre notre réaction face au coronavirus,” (21 April 2020) https://start.lesechos.fr/societe/culture-tendances/5-romans-epidemiques-pour-mieux-comprendre-notre-reaction-face-au-coronavirus-1196542 [accessed 20 March 2021]. Naomi Titti, “L’épidémie en littérature, à travers 6 grands romans,” (17 March 2020) https://www.franceculture.fr/litterature/lepidemie-en-litterature-a-travers-6-grands-romans [accessed 20 March 2021]. La Quarantaine featured on a number of other pandemic reading lists, including in the political magazine Marianne (https://www.marianne.net/culture/coronavirus-notre-selection-de-10-romans-pour-survivre-au-virus).

4. Karim Simpore, “Ebola: réalités et contexe littéraire,” Romance Notes 56 no.2 (2016): 321-31 (p.322); (p. 330).

5. Justine Feyereisen, “Corps en captivité: Patrick Chamoiseau et J.M.G. Le Clézio,” Sens public (2017) https://doi.org/10.7202/1048847ar.

6. Victor Segalen, “Le Double Rimbaud,” in Oeuvres, 2 vols ed. by Christian Doumet (Paris: Gallimard/Pléiade, 2020) I, 201-30 (p.203).

7. See William Thompson, “Voyage and Immobility in J.M.G. Le Clézio’s Désert and La Quarantaine,” World Literature Today 71 no. 4 (1997): 709-16.

8. See Marilia Marchetti, “J.M.G. le Clézio: une littérature de l’exil et de l’errance,” Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 19 no. 2 (2015): 162-74.

9. On Metcalfe, see Rachel Bouvet, “Le botaniste et la guérisseuse: figures de l’imaginaire vegetal dans La Quarantaine de Le Clézio,” Recherches sémiotiques / Semiotic Inquiry 30 (2010): 179-88.

10. For a more detailed discussion of the relationship between Léon I and Suryavati, see Robert Alvin Miller, “The poetics of mixed marriage in Le Clézio’s La Quarantaine,” Kamal Salhi (ed) Francophone Post-Colonial Cultures: Critical Essays (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003): 321-30.

11. Bruno Thibault, “La Métaphore exotique: l’écriture du processus d’individuation dans Le Chercheur d’or et La Quarantaine de J.M.G. Le Clézio,” The French Review 73 no. 5 (2000): 845-61 (p.846).

12. Marina Salles, Le Clézio (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2006): https://books.openedition.org/pur/34794 [accessed 31 March 2021].

13. Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith, “Editors’ introduction,” Islands in History and Representation (New York and London: Routledge, 2003): 1-18 (p.5).