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Le Clézio, Nobel Prize Winner in Literature and French Writer, Lecturing in School of Foreign Languages & Literature

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      On November 16th, 2015, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, renowned French writer and Nobel Prize winner in literature, gave a lecture in School of Foreign Languages & Literature in Wuhan University upon invitation. In the theme of “holding fast to the power of words and exploring the truth on the Internet”, he engaged in profound explanation and discussion concerning the impact of the Internet to words and literature in this new media era. The lecture was hosted by Professor Du Qinggang, Dean of the School. Present at the lecture were also Xu Jun, renowned translator and Professor from Nanjing University, and Di An, young female writer of China, etc. Teachers and doctoral candidates of the French Department and students of all grades interested in this lecture from other institutions of higher learning in the Central China all participated in the lecture.

       Le Clézio is one of the representative writers of the Nouveau Roman School in the second half of the 20th century, known along with Patrick Modiano and George Perec as “three stars of France”. Awarded a Nobel Prize in literature, he is famous for his works including The Interrogation, The Prospector and Voyage a Rodrigues, etc.


     At the beginning of the lecture, Le Clézio introduced one typical case into the discussion, demonstrating the limitedness of reading image in this new media era to prove that words still enjoy an irreplaceable role. No one could forget the innocent civilians bleeding to death in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The pictures and image recording this tragedy, due to their shocking visual impact and realness that immersed the viewers right at the scene, were widely spread, evolving into a huge force. The image showing a 12 year-old boy in Palestine withering in the hand of an Israeli soldier was spread across the Arabian world through television by such force. Later, the name “Muhammad al-Durrah” almost became the symbolism of Jihad for the Palestinians. The picture showing the boy dying in the arms of his father were put up everywhere along the streets by the west bank of the Jordan River.


      However, despite their huge visual impact, images are instantaneous, and necessary verbal explanations are absent. In this new era, images are known for their speed of spreading and scope of influence, but they tend to concentrate the attention of the public to the surface alone, while blurring the truth. The conflict in the Middle East, to a large extent, is not only a crossfire of guns and bombs, but a spiritual and an ideological wrestle. People’s focus later turned into “who led to the demise of this Palestinian boy”, involving this 12 year-old boy into a political game. Using this incident to their advantages, various interest groups made different explanations. It was the visual impact and the inability to fully convey the reality of the images that led to this thought provoking result.

      Le Clézio believed words were the human approaches to truth while images, for most of the time, were misleading. Although images are made the main carriers of information by the Internet, what boasts true power are still words which disclose the fact while delivering the information. Beginning from the history of the medieval France, he mentioned the concept of “iconoclasm”, saying that “there is only one truth as planned by the god, which might be distorted when shown as images”. A headline image can not necessarily deliver the full truth, while words can. On the other hand, he also talked about the new media era, maintaining that internet literature would not replace traditional one and the impact of the internet was not aimed at changing the role of literature, but rather making culture more democratic. Gone are the days when the public had to obtain information and knowledge only by buying books at a high price, as the internet, electronic products and new media provided them with a new platform. No longer were knowledge and information exclusive: they become open to the public and fully accessible. This gave rise to the necessity for us to reposition the writers and the power of the words in this new era.


      After the lecture, teachers and classmates present participated in heated discussion, whose opinions were all commented on by Le Clezio. Brimming with vigor and shinning with the sparkles of thought, the lecture ended in the warm applause by the teachers and students.


(Contributed by Jiang Anji)