Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 15:36 UK

Profile: Nobel Prize winner Le Clezio

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
Le Clezio still spends much of the year in his native France

Hailed by critics as "a great French monument who towers over our literature", Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio is one of the most translated modern French authors.

A passionate admirer of the works of Robert Louis Stevenson and Joseph Conrad, he brought his frequent travels to life on the pages of his books.

The author has published more than 30 books and lived and taught all over the world - including a post at a Buddhist university in Thailand.

Born in Nice, in 1940, he began writing at the age of seven en route to Nigeria, where he lived until the age of 10.

Narrative style

It was a chapter of his boyhood that he would return to in Onitsha (1991) and L'Africain (2004) - recalling the experience of being reunited with his father who had worked in Nigeria as a surgeon during World War II.

The family returned to Nice in 1950, where Le Clezio completed his secondary education.

Fluent in French and English, he went on to study English at Bristol University before completing a Masters degree at the University of Aix-en-Provence in 1964.

As a young man, Le Clezio came to public attention with the publication of his first novel, Le Proces-Verbal (The Interrogation), at the age of 23.

Hailed for its unusual narrative style, it was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt - France's answer to the Booker Prize - given to the author of "the best and most imaginative prose work of the year".

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
Le Clezio's debut novel earned the newcomer the Prix Renaudot

His early years as a writer were notable for his avant-garde style. Themes in his work included solitude, madness and life on the fringes of urban society.

The mid-1970s saw Le Clezio living among, and exploring, Latin America civilisations - and translating some of their best-loved myths.

A writer of two distinctive phases, his style matured in the 1980s, with the novel Desert (The Desert), winning him a newfound populist following.

The novel, which depicted the brutality of urban European life through the eyes of an Algerian immigrant, was awarded the Prix Paul Morand by the French Academy.

Cultural conflict

In later years, the emphasis in Le Clézio's work has increasingly moved in the direction of an exploration of the world of childhood and of his own family history.

But he continues to return to themes of memory, exile cultural conflict and man's struggle against globalisation.

His latest novel, Ritournelle de la faim (Same Old Story about Hunger), explores French guilt over its wartime past.

He and his Moroccan wife, Jemia, share their time between Albuquerque in New Mexico, the island of Mauritius and Nice.




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