Friday, March 4, 2011

Depressing News from Libya Tuareg mercenaries joining the battle on the wrong side, Le Clézio , 2002 Nobel Lauriate Literature, Desert

I am really sad, but not surprised, by today's news that many Tuareg men are joining the mercenary forces of Muammar Gadaffi in Libya.  The Tuareg are the desert people of the Sahara Region across North Africa.  Surviving the Sahara is not for the weak and the Tuareg are a tough people living in horrible poverty with little hope for a better future, a fighting tradition and a tendency to take the money regardless of the side.  The Tuareg have a history of rebellion and violence and as a desert people they rarely make the news. 

In 2008 I acquired two music Cd's representing Sahara Desert (Tuareg) Blues. Terakaft, akh issudar and Imidiwan, Companions.  The music is great but I didn't know much about the Tuareg, desert people, other than what I learned via reviews of the Cd's.  Both music groups were described as ex-mercenaries now crafting desert blues.  I decided to learn more about the Tuareg people and searched for some books, either non-fiction or fiction, that would educate me on these desert people and their culture.

Timing being everything, I duly noted the announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, J.M.G. Le Clézio ,  a French writer closely connected to North Africa.  I immediately acquired his novel, Desert, A Verba Mundi Book, David R. Godine, Boston, Publisher, translated by C. Dickson, 2009.  While the paperback is in print only a handful of the hardcover first edition, first printing are available (here) and scarcity is driving the price up!

Desert traces the lives of the desert people, "the blue men," and "the last free men" as they try to survive the coming age of colonization and bitter war beginning prior to World War I.  A second tract in the novel explores the life of Lalla, her ancestors were the blue men, and her escape from Morocco and a forced marriage through her survival as a poor immigrant in Marseilles, France and her eventual career success and fame as a model.  This is a powerful novel, considered one of  Le Clézio's finest, and provides deep insight into the culture and history of the desert people, the Tuareg.  The novel won the innagural Gran Prix Paul Morand prize given by the Académie Française in 1980 and the 2009 release is the first English translation.   

While I am deeply saddened by the poverty and bleak future of the Tuareg people, the mercenary life has no future and only peace, stability and a return to freedom will save them now.   

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