Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio Wins Nobel Prize in Literature
The 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the
French novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio.
His family emigrated from Brittany to the Île de France — today’s Mauritius — in the 18th century. The island came under British rule in 1810, settlers being allowed to retain their property and the use of the French language while claiming the British nationality. The family lived for a time in Africa where his father served as a surgeon in the British army. His mother was a deaf mute. During the second world war, the family was separated, his father being unable to join his wife and children in Nice where Le Clézio studied at the Collège littéraire universitaire. After graduation, he moved to the United States as a teacher.
A great traveler, J.M.G. Le Clézio has been writing since age seven or eight. After majoring in French literature, he became famous at 23 with his first novel, Le Procès-Verbal (The Deposition), which was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt and for which he was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1963.
Since then he has published about thirty books, including short stories, novels, essays, two translations on the subject of Indian mythology, countless prefaces and reviews as well as a few contributions to collective publications.
His writing career may be divided into two main periods:
- From 1963 to 1975, Le Clézio explored themes like insanity, language, writing, devoting himself to formal experimentation in the wake of such contemporaries as Georges Perec or Michel Butor. Le Clézio’s public image was that of an innovator and a rebel, drawing praise from Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.
- In the late 1970s, Le Clézio’s style underwent a drastic change; he abandoned experimentation and the mood of his novels became less tormented as he broached themes like childhood, adolescence or traveling, attracting a broader, more popular audience. In 1980, Le Clézio was the first winner of the newly created Prix Paul Morand, awarded to Désert by the Académie française.
In 1994 a survey conducted by the French literary magazine Lire showed that 13% of the readers considered him to be the greatest living French language writer.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008, the first French novelist to receive it since Gao Xingjian in 2000 and Claude Simon in 1985.