Paris: The Swedish Academy on Thursday awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature to French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, describing him as “an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilisation.”
Mr. Le Clezio, 68, is a prolific writer who, in a career spanning 45 years, has penned some 50 works including novels, short stories, children’s books, translations of Indian mythology, essays and non-fiction, books of photos and countless articles in newspapers and periodicals. Mr. Le Clezio lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico but returns regularly to France, where he has houses in Nice and his native Brittany. A great traveller, his peregrinations around the globe are often reflected in his work which is marked by a deep compassion for the human condition
His collected works have often been described as a critique of the materialistic West marked as they are by concern for the world’s poor, weak and excluded. He writes in the classical style — simple, refined yet colourful.
Mr. Le Clezio was born on April 13, 1940 in Nice to a family which originally came from Brittany but migrated to Mauritius in the 18th century. His father was an English country doctor, his mother was French. His first novel “Le process verbal” was published in 1963 when he was just 23 and won the prestigious Renaudot prize.
“As a young writer in the aftermath of existentialism and the nouveau roman, he was a conjurer who tried to lift words above the degenerate state of everyday speech and to restore to them the power to invoke an essential reality. The emphasis in Le Clezio’s work has increasingly moved in the direction of an exploration of the world of childhood and of his own family history,” the academy wrote.
After taking a Bachelor’s degree in literature, Mr. Le Clezio attended universities in London and Bristol. In 1967 he was posted in Thailand while doing his military service but was expelled after he denounced child prostitution. For four years he worked in Panama as an employee of the Latin American Institute, sharing his life with the Indian tribes there, an experience that is reflected in his writing.
Horace Engdahl of the Swedish Academy speaking at the news conference to announce the laureate, said: “His works have a cosmopolitan character. Frenchman, yes, but more so a traveller, a citizen of the world, a nomad.”
This is the first time a French writer has won the Nobel literature prize since 2000, when it was awarded to Chinese writer Gao Xingjian, a political refugee who had settled in France and become a French citizen.
An opinion poll conducted in France in 1994 by the literary magazine Lire named Le Clezio “the greatest writer of the French language,” placing him before Julian Green.