Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Désert” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,053 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews

"Desert is a novel composed of two alternating narratives, set in counterpoint. The first takes place in the desert between 1909 and 1912 and evokes the migration of a young adolescent boy, Nour, and his people, the Blue Men, notorious warriors of the desert. Driven from their lands by French colonial soldiers, Nour's tribe has come to the valley of the Saguiet El Hamra to

Paperback, 438 pages
Published September 1st 1985 by Gallimard Education (first published 1980)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Désert, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Désert

The Caliph's House by Tahir ShahBrideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughDreams of Trespass by Fatema MernissiHideous Kinky by Esther FreudHope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
Books Set in Morocco
11th out of 88 books — 59 voters
ثلاثية غرناطة by Radwa AshourAzazil by Youssef Ziedanواحة الغروب by بهاء طاهرThe Cairo Trilogy by Naguib MahfouzThe Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
Best Middle East Fiction
143rd out of 315 books — 331 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,687)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 17, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Displacement, exile, refugee crossing, ethnic cleansing. J. M. G. Le Clézio's themes are heavy. They are the stuff of enduring human conflicts, the bane of civilization. Yet the register of his writing makes bearable the human failings and violence it seeks to redress. His prose register is poetry, but it is poetry lightened by silence and simplicity.

"There is no limit to the extent to which we can think ourselves into the being of another", says J. M. Coetzee's eponymous novelist in Elizabeth C
Jul 13, 2010 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone

This French author won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008. I had never heard of him before his award, as is embarrassingly true of many of the Nobel Prize winners when they are not American or English. Recently I resolved to read at least one book of each of these writers as long as they write novels. Having read Desert, I understand why he was awarded. The book was originally published in French by Editions Gallimard in 1980 and translated into English for release in 2009.

Easily one of the m
Dec 30, 2013 Shanmugam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Desert nomads' struggle for survival and postcolonial astonishing homecoming, in beautiful prose!

Having grown up in a moderate tropical wet land and immigrated to a moderate filth of metro, I have felt the warm sand and soil, flints of hot stones reflecting light on bare feet, brazier kind of setup in winters, torrential downpours, dust storm of red soil. Once my father got caught in middle of a hailstorm, after our bullocks cart got mangled in the winds. He walked down the last mile to home in
Mar 31, 2013 Ruth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautifully written. The language and descriptions of the desert and its people are stunning. But I felt at a remove from the characters, separated from them as by a wall of clouds. Could this have something to do with the translation? Or was it because there was almost no dialogue, just a monologue by an omniscient narrator who tells us what the characters are doing and what they feel?

I don't know. But it isn't often that I throw in the towel on a book only 10 pages from the end.
May 07, 2010 Rosana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
First the confession: I had never heard of Le Clezio until he won the Nobel in 2008, then when I bought the book a few months later, it was not the Noble prize that compelled me, but the picture on the cover of the verbamundi hardcover edition– an enigmatic woman with a blue veil. (the picture, by the way, is by photographer Dan Heller).

[image error]

To be lead to this book by a picture is ironic, as the reading of Desert is so much akin of watching a painter drawing and coloring on a canvas. It
Helena K.
Jan 06, 2013 Helena K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peut-être dû au fait d’avoir commencé à écrire pendant qu’il était encore enfant, Le Clézio a gardé dans son texte une perspective infantile, chargée d’humanité, simple, pure – une caractéristique qu’il a su transporter à la trajectoire des deux personnages principaux de Désert. Avec près de 100 ans de distance parmi eux, Lalla et Nour partagent leur existence dans le désert, l’expérience de la migration et la rencontre avec une réalité différente de celle qui leur avait été promise. Tandis qu’i ...more
While there was some very good prose and a very good story concept, this book, for me, was disjointed and, largely, overwritten.

The idea of showing an inherited untamed spirit of the last North African desert tribes to hold out against the "Christian invaders" is a good one. Unfortunately, the stories of past and present, through much of the novel, are only tenuously connected. I like that the author has chosen a woman to embody this spirit.

The freedom accorded to Lalla as a young teenager is no
May 07, 2014 Lada rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Qu'est ce que je pense de ce livre ecrit en 1980 qui est une spiritualite interieure, un chemin personnel dans le monde des annees 80 devenu de plus plus utilitaire et mercantile. L'ecrivain aide par son epouse marocaine, Jemia traverse l'ocean de desert a la recherchew d'un calme interieur qu'une curiosite avive en lui a l'ecoute du bruissement des choses de la terre autour de luiqui suscite, avive et aiguise son interet devant son identite et ce par rapport aux autres.
Le livre est structure co
Monica Carter
Apr 06, 2010 Monica Carter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Desert by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio is a perfect example of why Le Clézio won the Nobel in 2008, even though he was little known in the United States –sprawling, place specific narratives that bring to life the histories of cultures we do not know and that the world is quickly forgetting. One thing not to expect when you read Desert is a fast-paced narrative that immediately transplants you into another place and time. It does take to another place, but in as low, slightly repetitive pace tha
May 25, 2016 Louisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning there were the nomads, men and women whose faces and bodies were tinted blue with indigo and sweat... Those looking for a fast moving plot will be disappointed, but Désert is a beautiful novel full of dreamy prose; a journey, an unromanticised glimpse of life in the Sahara, deep in the desert where only the nomads can live.
The story of Nour is based on true events during the beginning of the 20th century when the sheik Ma El Aïnin, a great leader of the nomads, founded the city
It so often seems that all late 20th Century French literature lies in the shadow of Proust. Duras, Sollers, Simon, and apparently Monsieur Le Clézio as well. The style is so persistently rapturous, so caught up in breathless reverie and dazzling impressionism, that it might take a while for a "story" to appear. That's fine by me.

Desert is absolutely gorgeous, there's no doubt about that. And I found myself really liking Lalla as a protagonist. OK, she's the sort of existentialist heroine who yo
Jesse K
Oct 09, 2009 Jesse K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
Desert was an amazing book. It was published 7 years after the Giants, but it seems like it was written 40 years later by an entirely different man. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Le Clezio still employs alot of the same tricks like long descriptions of people walking and minute objects. While his other books made me go "holy f$%!", the Desert actually managed to effect me emotionally by placing those tricks around a more, well-in comparison more, plot driven narrative. The first 7 of hi ...more
Ben Winch
I struggled through about half of this because I was traveling and didn't have anything else to read, but I found it absolutely flat, opaque and affectless. Wondering if I'd missed something through lack of attention, when I got back to Australia I gave it to my dad to read, and his response was the same, despite his tastes being fairly different to mine. This just seems a clear case of overreach: Le Clezio doesn't have the requisite empathy with his (mostly black, African, poor) characters and ...more
Suraj Alva
Was reading this book in French and not a translation, got to page 70 and couldn't take it anymore. It is too effing repetitive, the author just labors on and on and on and on, on unnecessary and redundant details; so much so that you feel as if he got his money per the number of pages he wrote. Trust me, the feeling that you get that the author is just wasting words is not because of the translation {if you are reading a translated version}, but is the essence of the work {in its original langu ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Marc rated it liked it
Read this book in French. Not an easy read, I must say. The writing style is rather poetical, with lots of elements typical for magical realism. The perspective goes back and forth between 1910 (a little boy Nour and his family on the run for French colonial troops in the Moroccan desert) and the present (the girl Lalla, living in a shantytown on the Moroccan coast). There are a lot of connections between the two characters (they even seem related), but the most important connecting element is t ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Two linked stories about tradition and progress and what we as a civilisation have come to sacrifice to get where we are.
Beginning of the twentieth century, Nour, one of the last of a disappearing tribe who have to start a migration through the desert to find their homeland.
Lalla, the descendant of that now disappeared tribe, who has to take her own journey to find what's lacking in her life.

Prose which should be read as poetry, through the senses. I think that if you try to read this novel in
Feb 22, 2016 Zeina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
L'ouvrage de Le Clézio se compose de deux récits. L'un se déroule dans le désert. Il évoque la migration des hommes bleus. Le désert reste pour eux "le seul, le dernier pays libre oú les lois d'hommes n'avaient plus d'importance". Le héros de ce récit doit être nour, l'adolescent qui a reçu la bénédiction du saint homme appelé l'eau des yeux ou maa' elaynin.
Le second récit se situe au maghreb puis à marseille. Lalla est l'héroïne maintenant.elle refuse toutes les compromissions dans lesquelles o
Oxana Gutu
Jan 06, 2016 Oxana Gutu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My next stop on the “Read all Nobel price in Literature” journey took me to North Africa, as seen by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. Le Clezio received the Nobel prize for literature in 2008.He wrote “Désert”/”The desert” in 1980.DesertClezio
The desert appeared to me as a metaphor for human misery and emptiness, but also for wholeness and its intrinsic happiness. The human misery and happiness are told through stories of descendants of a man believed to be holy by his North African nomadic people
Dec 18, 2015 Garryvivianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author JMG Le Clezio is a winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. His book Desert is beautifully written. It starts out with a caravan of the "Blue Men". I don't believe I remember seeing anywhere in the book that they are named as the Taurag nomads which they are. Their journeys are almost hopeless in the harsh and desolate environs. They have always lived in the desert, they have always been free.

They have been promised fertile lands in Morrocco. The time of this journey all ties in with the
James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it really liked it
This novel alternates two stories -- one concerns the French conquest of North Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, seen from the perspective of a young desert nomad named Nour, and the other concerns the life of a young girl named Lalla, from approximately the present day, who is apparently a descendant of the refugees of that time.

I am glad I persevered with Le Clezio, because this was definitely a very good novel. It did have some weaknesses: it was somewhat too religious for my taste
Grady Ormsby
Feb 13, 2014 Grady Ormsby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Desert by French-Mauritian writer J.M.G LeClezio is a dual narrative told in alternating chapters. Set in 1909 the first story is of Nour, a young Taureg man, who joins his fellow tribesmen, the Blue Men, as they are forced by French colonial invaders to flee across the desert from their traditional land. They follow Ma al-Ainne, their political and religious leader in a vain search for a land in which they can again be free. It’s a harsh reminder of the greed, cruelty and contempt of colonial ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 17, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-lit
The Desert is a well-intentioned if somewhat insincere novel about the relation of France with its North African colonies and the people who live in them. The Desert tells two stories in tandem. The first story is about the suppression of a revolt in Morocco in the period from 1910 to 1912 which illustrates how France imposed its rule on the North Africans. The second story which is about the troubles encountered by a Moroccan girl when she moves to France in the 1940 addresses the issue of how ...more
Oct 15, 2010 Isabelle rated it liked it
I am perplexed by Le Clezio's "Desert"; it is so beautifully written that it actually becomes mesmerizing. Such mastery of language in the most classical sense... I could not help sensing some strong Proustian affinities!
Yet, I also felt the book was so strangely empty; the thought dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, Le Clezio engineered that emptiness to reflect the vast empty horizon of the desert itself.
May 06, 2015 Amélia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took quite a long time to read this book. Not that the writing is that difficult to read, but the author doesn't exactly narrate a lot of action. There's 80% of thoughts and descriptions in general in this book.
The first thing that I loved about it was the setting of the story. Even in my bed, no sound around the house, I could feel the wind, the sun on my skin. I've definitely been transported by it.
Two stories are assembled, but as there's not a lot of action, and as the characters are rea
Mostafa Troski
بخش لالا کتاب بهتر بود بنظرم
بخش نور، یه جوری بود، نمی شد زیاد درکش کرد

نوبل ادبیات رو بنظرم به یه نویسنده( بخاطر تمام کارهای ادبیش) میدن نه بخاطر یه کتاب خاص، چون بیابان بنظرم دهه 1980 نوشته شده، چطور نوبل 2008 رو بهش دادن؟!!!

احتمالا انتشارات خواسته ازین عنوان استفاده کنه برای فروش بیشتر

البته در کل کتاب خوبیه
با طرز تفکرهای شبیه لالا خیلی حال می کنم!!
Jul 06, 2012 Igor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literatura
Hace mucho, mucho tiempo, que no leía algo que tuviera un manejo de lenguaje tan potente y estremecedor como lo que escribe JMG Le Clézio. Sin demasiados problemas, uno puede respirar la atmósfera, sentir, vivir el desierto en cada página, las angustias de los personajes. Sensaciones arenosas garantizadas -en el mejor de los sentidos-.
I Am
Apr 15, 2013 I Am rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
ცოტა ძნელად წასაკითხია, და გაწელილიც, მაგრამ მაგარი ის არის რომ წიგნის გადაშლისთანავე შენც უდაბნოში აღმჩნდები, გრძნობ იქაურ სიცხეს, ქვიშიან ქარებს, უდაბნს ხმაურს(რომელიც საცრად არის აღწერილი) და უდაბნოს თავისუფლებას, ასევე ლოდინს ყოველდღე, რომელსაც მოცული აქვს იქაურობა. ძალიან ინფორმაციული წიგნია, მოკლედ ღირს წაკითხვად.
Jun 14, 2016 Cristina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel
We live our pedicured lives in bubbles of appropriate conformity: we wake up in houses with bathrooms and fridges, have 3 meals a day, go to school, get degrees, jobs, drink coffee, own cars and all sorts of other property, mawn our lawns, and so on. So that when reading a book like this it feels like stepping into a different universe. Out there, people live in a world with endless sand dunes and the ocasional wind, and it feels like there is nothing happening, nothing to see or talk about, not ...more
Aaron Cance
Apr 18, 2012 Aaron Cance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A handsomely written, sprawling epic that chronicles the slow death of a North African culture. Le Clézio's prose reminded me, a great deal of that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, i.e. you won't rip through it quickly, but why would you want to when the journey is this moving.
Ilyhana Kennedy
Jul 18, 2014 Ilyhana Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an exceptional literary work. I read it as a translation into English and could only imagine the pleasure of reading it in the original French.
It is total immersion in the natural environment of the desert of Africa, exquisite prose.
Even when it takes a short diversion into the city of Marseilles, it is still about immersion in the sound, the feel, the light, what is seen.
The history of early 20th century in north Africa is largely unknown to people educated in Australia, and so I was fa
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 89 90 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Flanders Road
  • One Man's Bible
  • The Ogre
  • The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard
  • The Opposing Shore
  • The Sacred Night
  • L'Œuvre au noir
  • Aké: The Years of Childhood
  • The Hunger Angel
  • Thérèse
  • The Pillar of Salt
  • Red Sorghum
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child
  • Mazurka for Two Dead Men
  • Đèn không hắt bóng
  • Fantasia
  • Brodeck
  • Verre cassé
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, better known as J.M.G. Le Clézio (born 13 April 1940) is a Franco-Mauritian novelist. The author of over forty works, he was awarded the 1963 Prix Renaudot for his novel Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) and the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature.
More about Jean-Marie G. Le Clézio...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Out there, in the open desert, men can walk for days without passing a single house, seeing a well, for the desert is so vast that no one can know it all. Men go out into the desert, and they are like ships at sea; no one knows when they will return. Sometimes there are storms, but nothing like here, terrible storms, and the wind tears up the sand and throws it high into the sky, and the men are lost. They die, drowned in the sand, they die lost like ships in a storm, and the sand retains their bodies. Everything is so different in that land; the sun isn't the same as it is here, it burns hotter, and there are men that come back blinded, their faces burned. Nights, the cold makes men who are lost scream out in pain, the cold breaks their bones. Even the men aren't the same as they are here...they are cruel, they stalk their pray like foxes, drawing silently near. They are black, like the Hartani, dressed in blue, faces veiled. They aren't men, but djinns, children of the devil, and they deal with the devil; they are like sorcerers... ” 5 likes
“It was as if there were no names here, as if there were no words. The desert cleansed everything in its wind, wiped everything away. The men had the freedom of the open spaces in their eyes, their skin was like metal. Sunlight blazed everywhere. The ochre, yellow, gray, white sand, the fine sand shifted, showing the direction of the wind. It covered all traces, all bones. It repelled light, drove away water, life, far from a center that no one could recognize. The men knew perfectly well that the desert wanted nothing to do with them: so they walked on without stopping, following the paths that other feet had already traveled in search of something else.” 4 likes
More quotes…