It was announced today that a Frenchman will be awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Nice, France on April 13, 1940, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio started writing when he was only 7 years old, has traveled extensively, grew up bilingual in French and English as he lived in various countries and has written more than 30 books. He and his wife currently have homes in Nice, New Mexico and Mauritius.
He has written about crises such as fever and floods, ecological issues, war, North African culture, Indian culture, Europe as viewed by unwanted immigrants, Central America, refugees, cultural conflicts, youth and exile. In 1994, he was chosen by the readers of Lire magazine as the best living French author. He has been awarded other literary prizes including the Prix Théophraste Renaudot in 1963, Prix Larbaud in 1972, Grand Prix Paul Morand de l’Académie française in 1980, Grand Prix Jean Giono in 1997 and the Prix Prince de Monaco in 1998.
Although actually written for a pre-teen French public, I would recommend Le Clezio’s children’s books to anyone learning French. The topics are interesting and the language easier to grasp for those just starting out with the language than his other novels. Celui qui n’avait jamais vu la mer is about a boy named Daniel who barely talks and doesn’t really have any friends. He seems to come from somewhere else and only gets excited when someone talks of their travels and the sea although he has never seen the sea…until one day, without telling anyone, he sets off to never return. Lullaby is about a girl of the same name who is rebellious, impulsive and a dreamer who one day decides to never again return to school. She leaves her house and takes off to the sea, meeting all sorts of interesting characters along the way. Voyage au pays des arbres is about a young boy who, bored, decides to take off to the ‘country of trees’. He feels that trees are not all alike, can talk, think, listen and have personalities and so decides to become friends with all of them. Balaabilou is about an African fisherman who tells children about Balaabilou who saved a beautiful princess named Leila from a horrible death and her entire kingdom from drought. La grande vie peuple du ciel is about the power of the imagination and the frailty of dreams.
Le Clezio’s style is very Roald Dahl-like. The Swedish Academy, in bestowing this internationally renowned award upon Le Clezio, said that he is the “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, the explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”. For more detailed information on his biography and bibliography of works, click here.