The Relevance of Utopia in a Globalized World”
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J.M.G Le Clézio's latest novel "Ourania" (2006) ends with an affirmation by the narrator that Ourania (his imaginary utopian land) really existed and that his certainty comes from having seen the community of Campos, a utopian community founded in western Mexico in the 1980s. The novel as a whole, however, would seem to belie this affirmation as the image of the utopian community leaves a weaker imprint on the reader's mind than the images of poverty and exploitation of children in the strawberry fields of the region, the triumph of capitalism and the temptation of the US border. In this paper I will compare "Ourania" to some of Le Clézio's earlier novels and his non-fiction work "Le rêve mexcain", a study of Mesoamerican myths and religion. A main preoccupation of the author in the past has been the "re-enchantment" of the world, a reconnecting through language of people and environment, but the language of "Ourania", it seems to me, lacks the power of the earlier novels such as "Désert", that is, the power to evoke the land and its people. "Ourania" is a novel which tells of the dispersion of the utopian community, Campos, which is powerless against a wealthy landowner. Interwoven with the story of Campos is that of a failed intellectual utopia, l'Emporio, where a group of anthropologists, political scientists and economists originating from the city strive to take power from the idealist founder and stand in opposition to the geographer/narrator, suggesting the triumph of the human sciences over the study of the land itself. Missing from "Ourania" is the strong female character who, in several of Le Clézio's novels,maintains contact with her native land and stands in opposition to the power of the city and of technological advance. Continually present is the globalized world - exploitation of land and workers, tourism, urbanization. Is the author, for so many years, a champion of the natural world and of the people who live closest to it, finally conceding defeat? I would like to conclude my paper with some reflection on the relevance or irrelevance of utopian thought in our globalized world.