the great escapist


In an interview with me in 1997, Le Clezio explained that during this period he was greatly affected by Aldous Huxley’s seminal dsytopian tract, Brave New World. This influence is most evident in The Giants, a novel describing a Big Brother-style society of surveillance, founded on the seduction of the consumer and the control of language by “the Masters”. With characters called Machines and Tranquillity, trapped in a massive supermarket named Hyperpolis, Le Clezio echoes Huxley’s horrific vision of the future in a premonitory portrait of the manipulative power of advertising. The inescapable oppression of modern Western civilisation and the fear of what it might lead to is the essential message that Le Clezio seeks to convey here, and there is little hope for new beginnings or a better way of being in the world. More optimistic insights came to him, however, as he travelled and experienced other cultures. After brief periods working as a teacher in Thailand and a librarian’s assistant in Mexico, he spent considerable time in the early ’70s living among the Embera indians, deep in the forests of Panama.

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