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3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  373 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Bison Books (first published January 1st 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 10, 2009 Joy rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read recently. The language is rich, elegant, evocative.
Roger Brunyate
May 02, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: place-portraits
Heart of Africa

Is it possible to write of a journey upriver into the African heartland without falling into the shadow of Heart of Darkness ? And yet the example of Conrad's masterpiece need not be a dead weight, as Onitsha, the 1992 novel by the recent Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio, proves. As Conrad had done, Le Clézio begins his book with a long voyage by water, in this case from Bordeaux along the coast of Africa to the mouth of the River Niger. His protagonist is a young boy, Fintan, w
Feb 21, 2016 Antonio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Las reseñas que escribo son para recordarme a mí mismo de lo que he leído, por lo que están llenas de spoilers.
Onitsha es un lugar en el inconsciente de cada uno de nosotros. Un lugar donde la fantasía y la realidad convergen, sueños y hechos se mezclan.
Los personajes tienen diferentes esperanzas de qué encontrar en África. Provenientes de Europa, de una cultura occidental, persiguen fantasías que al llegar a Onitsha se desintegran, pero para conformar una realidad que aunque lejos de lo que hab
Feb 11, 2009 Annabelle rated it liked it
Le Clezio is this year’s Nobel laureate. This is a fictionalized memoir of Le Clézio’s childhood trip to Nigeria, where he lived with his father, whom he had never met until the age of10,who is Geoffery, an Englishman working for the United African Trade Company. His mother, Maou, is Italian and a free spirit. He has grown up in Europe on the French Mediterranean. She was poor and Geoffery left for the war in African soon after they married, so they lived with a women and an elderly woman they c ...more
Scott Cox
"Africa burns like a secret, like a fever" - - "Slowness, that was it, a very long and regular movement, like the water of the river flowing towards the sea, like the clouds, like the sweltering afternoon heat . . . Life came to a halt, as if time were weighted." Onitsha, a town on the bank of the River Niger, once capital to the great Igbo Kingdom, becomes the setting for this riveting novel by Nobel Prize laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio. The novel is a clash of cultures, taking place just prior to t ...more
Corinne Stoppelli
Apr 18, 2008 Corinne Stoppelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kimisse
Shelves: favorites
Un voyage au coeur de l'Afrique: trois acteurs, trois visions sensiblement nuancées.

Geoffroy travaille pour une compagnie française à Onitsha. Il demande à sa femme Maou et son fils Fintan, qu'il ne connaît pas encore, de les rejoindre.

Maou, forte de son passé d'enfant caché, espère de l'Afrique une libération, une brûlure agréable sur la peau.
Fintan se trouve projeté dans un conflit de culture et d'identité saisissant.
Geoffreoy se retrouve pris entre plusieurs feux: le milieu colonial dont il e
May 21, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it
I was curious about Le Clezio's writing after reading about his Nobel Prize, but even more when I read that his ideas of place and the modern nomadic lifestyle were appropriate for our times. This book is not a page turner, but it is very honest, filled with the innocence of the young protagonist, the beauty and danger of Onitsha (an African town), and the way places can grow inside us. Le Clezio is a marvelous writer who occasionally gets carried away by his love of names and myths, but I was v ...more
I ran into Sherman Alexie the other day and we talked about reading Nobel winners after they have been chosen for the award. We read these authors with a particular scrutiny since we know what apparently the rest of the world thinks of his/her work. That said, I really enjoyed Onitsha. LeClezio is a model post-colonial author, balancing European guilt and apology with the complicated paternalism of the colonists' tribal envy. He outlines these roles through the young and resilient main character ...more
Nina Chachu
May 22, 2010 Nina Chachu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure whether I would like this book, as various mentions of LeClezio had indicated that he was not an "easy" writer. This novel seemed to be almost autobiographical in some ways, and maybe that was one of the reasons I found it so moving. The different perspectives did work, though of course the major part of the book was written from the point of view of Fintam, a young teenager, on his first visit to his father's posting in post-World War II Onitsha.
Vildan Arıcan
Apr 17, 2010 Vildan Arıcan rated it it was amazing
hmmm that was really awesome coz that author really deceived me..when ı have seen his photo I was just shocked to see a white half--frenchman:)

such an objective and clearly explained, empathic gonna love the point of view...gonna experience all the things (pro/con) fromm the vantage point of a child, Called as Fintan.

"love" always ends if it has a link to materialism...colonial end...
missy jean
Mar 15, 2009 missy jean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This is the first work I've read by JMG LeClezio, the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. And I was amazed. Onitsha is both mystical and subversive--two traits that I love in literature, but there are so few books that manage both at once--and I was totally hypnotized by LeClezio's dreamy prose. A gorgeous read.
Dec 11, 2010 Bob rated it it was ok
Sorry to say, I just could never get into this book and stopped reading after about a hundred pages. My main criticism is it was just too slow. Judging from some of the other reviews, I may have missewd a good thing.
Sep 03, 2015 Karla rated it liked it
Although the writing was rich and beautiful, I just couldn't connect and it was often a challenge to follow. I didn't much care for any of the characters. Not a bad book, just not my style.
Jody Curtis
Oct 31, 2016 Jody Curtis rated it it was amazing
A story about cultural domination. In the end, the British ship wrecked, rusted, and sank into the copper-colored river on the edge of Biafra. Literally and metaphorically, in Onitsha.
Denise Ganzinga
Dec 20, 2016 Denise Ganzinga rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fell in love with this work. I did not merely read this, I experienced it. This book left me homesick for a place I have never been
Jan 27, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing
It wasn’t until the end of the novel that I really connected this novel with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun which was based on the Biafran War in the 1960ies where the eastern part of Nigeria, primarily represented by the Igbo people, were hounded into succession and an attempt to found their own state. Or that I began to wonder why so much of the literary output of Nigeria (besided Adichie, Chinua Achebe in the previous generation and Chris Abani more recently)—at least ...more
Mar 10, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it
Each family member is reaching for Onitsha in his or her own way – Geoffrey through religion/legend (interesting that a different typeface is used – first sense that this book is also about Geoffrey, that he has a soul – p 71); Maou through people, and Fintan through the sense of physical location – also, while the initial impression is that each is just in his or her own world, they are aware of each other’s reaching out.
Surprised to find out that Geoffrey is Fintan’s father – p 67 – sense befo
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Nov 23, 2008 Jayaprakash Satyamurthy rated it really liked it

Like many other bemused Indian booklovers, I bought this book because it was the only work by this year's Nobel winner available in stores and I wanted to know what the fuss was all about.

I came away moved and impressed - convinced that, if Le Clezio generally writes at this level, the Nobel is well deserved.

It's the story of a young European boy and his mother who move to Nigeria to be with his English father, his family's various engagements with the country, its people and its heritage
Jul 10, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, novels
Reading the first pages of this novel was not that exciting. To me it was extremely slow, and did not captivate my interest. But then… something happens; when Fintan, the young protagonist, docked at the banks of the Niger River with Moau, his Italian mother, a new oneiric world opens in front of the reader. I am glad I didn’t put the book down.
I loved the dreamy passages on the historical and mythological references on Africa’s legendary past -the charming black queen of Meroë and her search fo
Jan 31, 2009 Jenny rated it it was amazing
This is a small book full of exquisite details. It can be read on many levels -- as a story about a family that has been separated and is trying to come together, as a journey or quest, or as a description of the clash of unfamiliar cultures. It is the story of a young boy, Fintan, who in 1948 travels with his French/Italian mother from France to Nigeria to rejoin his British father. In Onitsha, each member of the family learns about themselves and the culture that they have come to join.
Cooper Renner
Nov 18, 2014 Cooper Renner rated it liked it
Interesting to see how memoiristic materials from LeClezio's The African gets worked into fiction here. I find myself getting irritated at the side-plot (subplot), which distracted from the central storyline, although it did in fact eventually tie in. The "nostalgic" material--the childhood in a colonialized country--echoes against The Prospector and starts to reveal undergirding ideas in Le Clezio.
Oct 24, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Not so much happens in this book. Another writer might have compressed the events into a short story, but then again, the slow pace mimics the way that time is experienced by children. Le Clezio is known for his descriptive writing, and there are definitely plenty of phrases worth lingering over in this book of a boy's journey to Africa to meet his father for the first time.
Jul 14, 2009 Gayle rated it it was ok
I was given this book by my sister-in-law who is an editor at Nebraska Press otherwise I may not have chosen it. It was a story of a woman and her son going to Africa in the 40's to meet up with her husband. It was a difficult life and hard to imagine.
Jan 25, 2009 Christina rated it liked it
I am not so impressed. Possibly not deep enough. Confusing with all the names and it would have helped to have some type of preface/author's note to check into to have some clue of part of the passages.
Jan 25, 2009 Becky rated it it was amazing
Incredible and lovely book about a 12 year-old French/English boy, Fintan, who with his mother goes to live with his father in Africa. I'm reminded of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe as well as other more contemporary books about Africa - especially Nigeria.
Jul 25, 2010 Kathy rated it it was amazing
This is my first of Le Clezio's books. It's great. His descriptions bring to life this slice of colonial Africa and the young boy's experiences getting there and living there. I hope to read Desert by him as well.
AC Fick
Jul 13, 2013 AC Fick rated it it was amazing
Le Clezio is superb, sentence by sentence, page by page, compelling and challenging at every turn, but always rewarding to the patient reader.
Dec 19, 2008 Lorraine rated it really liked it
Wow. I find myself mesmerized by LeClezio's dreamy style, the settings of colonial power built on the backs of the natives and the European children who observe it.
Rekisteröin kirjan!
Oct 20, 2008 Dawn rated it really liked it
Le Clezio just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This book takes you to Africa--through the eyes of the boy Fintan, I experienced the smells, tastes, and feelings that he experienced.
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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.
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