09 October 2008

2008 Nobel Prize for Literature

The 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to the distinguished French writer and novelist J.M.G. Le Clézio.

The now 68-year-old author is honoured with the 10 million Swedish Kronor (€ 1,024,427) award for his life's work, which includes more than 30 books as well many essays, short stories and two major translations.
In its citation, the Swedish Academy describes Le Clézio as "an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, ... an explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilisation."

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was born on April 13th, 1940 - less than a month before the German tanks began rolling into France - in the city of Nice on the French Riviera, to a family of Breton origin.
His ancestors had left the shores of France in the 18th century and settled on the
île de France (nowadays known as Mauritius). After the island had been taken over by Britain in 1810, French planters were allowed to remain and also keep their lands, houses, culture and language.
Le Clézio is deeply inspired by Mauritius, and several of his books - including the highly praised novel Le Chercheur d'Or (The Prospector) - are set on the island.

For most of his life he has been a traveller, living in various countries, seeing much of the world and writing about it. Even as a child he lived for some time in Africa, where his father - a surgeon - worked for the British Army. During the war the family got separated for a while and the infant Jean-Marie lived with his deaf mute mother in Nice, while his father fought against the Nazis.

Later Le Clézio studied at the Collège littéraire universitaire in Nice, and after his graduation he moved to the United States to work as a teacher.
He began writing at the age of seven (co-incidentally, so did I) and has never stopped. Aged 23 he published his first novel, Le Procès-Verbal (The Deposition), which was shortlisted for the prestigous Prix Goncourt and awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1963.

Literary critics devide his writing career usually into two main periods: the experimental phase and the consolidated phase.

From 1963 to 1975 Le Clézio explored themes like insanity, language and the essence of writing, devoting himself to formal experimentation in the wake of such contemporaries as Georges Perec or Michel Butor. His public image was that of an innovator and a rebel, drawing praise from Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.

But in the late 1970s Le Clézio's writing style suddenly changed. He abandoned experimentation and the mood of his novels became less tormented.
He turned to themes like childhood, adolescence or traveling, thus attracting a broader and more popular audience.
In 1980 Jean-Marie Le Clézio was the first author to receive the newly created Grand Prix Paul-Morand - awarded by the Académie française - for his probably now best-known novel Désert (Desert), which describes in a very beautiful style the life of the Tuareg people.
The Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy praises this book especially for its "magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert".

His most recent works include Révolutions, L'Africain, Ourania and Ballaciner, a work the Swedish Academy describes as "a deeply personal essay about the history of the art of film".
Le Clézio has also written several books for children, among them Lullaby (published in 1980) and Balaabilou (published in 1985).

A survey, conducted in 1994 by the French literary magazine Lire, established that 13% of its readers considered Jean-Marie Le Clézio to be "the greatest living French language writer".
Unfortunately not all of his books have been translated, and thus he is not very well-known in the English-speaking world. But this will hopefully change soon, as major prizes move publishers to action much more than talent and quality.

I like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jean-Marie Le Clézio, whom I have met several times over the years, to this great and well-deserved honour and wish him all the best for his life and work in future.

The Emerald Islander

P.S.
Jean-Marie Le Clézio is the first French writer in more than two decades to be awarded the Nobel Prize. The last French author to win it was Claude Simon in 1985. And though the laureate of 2000 - Gao Xingjian - is also listed under France, he only lives there and is actually Chinese.

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

This is a very good tribute.

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