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Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio wins Nobel Prize

10 October 2008

The French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, who studied English at the University of Bristol in 1958-59, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2008.

Le Clézio was praised as “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”.

Born on April 13, 1940, in Nice, Le Clézio grew up with two languages, French and English.  After completing his secondary education, he studied English at Bristol in 1958-59 and completed his undergraduate degree in Nice (Institut d’Études Littéraires) in 1963.  He took a master’s degree at the University of Aix-en-Provence in 1964 and wrote a doctoral thesis on Mexico’s early history at the University of Perpignan in 1983.  He has taught at universities in Bangkok, Mexico City, Boston, Austin and Albuquerque among other places.

Le Clézio received much attention with his debut novel, Le procès-verbal (1963; The Interrogation, 1964), the first in a series of descriptions of crisis, which includes the short story collection La fièvre (1965; Fever, 1966) and Le déluge (1966; The Flood, 1967), in which he points out the trouble and fear reigning in the major Western cities.

His definitive breakthrough as a novelist came with Désert (1980), for which he received a prize from the French Academy.  This work contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert, contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants.

His other works include Le cercheur d’or (1985; The Prospector, 1993), Onitsha (1991; Onitsha, 1997), La quarantaine (1995), Révolutions (2003), L’Africain (2004), Ourania (2005) and Raga: approche du continent invisible (2006).

Among Le Clézio’s most recent works are Ballaciner (2007), a deeply personal essay about the history of the art of film and the importance of film in the author’s life.  A new work, Ritournelle de la faim, has just been published.

Le Clézio now lives in Albuquerque, Mauritius and Nice.