This story by the recent Nobel Prize winner Le Clézio is NOT online so you’ll either have to find a copy of the magazine or take my word for it. The language is beautiful (the magazine’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, translated) and it was a pleasant read. I’m not doing back-flips here, but it was nice. The story is about the boys in a boarding school. One of them, Daniel, daydreams about the sea, so much that he liked to be called Sinbad. He didn’t fit in and he was from a poor family, so there wasn’t much that the other boys really knew. Until one day he disappeared and no one—not the teachers or the family or the boys—knew where he’d gone. Except that the boys concocted a fantasy on Daniel’s behalf, about finding the sea, becoming part of it, befriending an octopus, and basically living his dream.
“From time to time, Daniel stopped to face the horizon and watch the tall waves searching for a way over the reef. He inhaled with all his strength, and it was as if the sea and the horizon were filling his lungs, his stomach, his head, and he had become a kind of giant. He looked at the dark water in the distance, where there was no land and no foam, only the open sky, and it was to that part of the sea that he spoke, in a low voice, as if it could hear.”
And then the school officials and even Daniel’s family seem to forget him. But not the other boys, who quietly keep him and his dreams in their memory.
October 27, 2008: “The Boy Who Had Never Seen the Sea” by J. M. G. Le Clézio