French author Patrick Modiano, who has made a lifelong study of the Nazi occupation and its effects, has won the 2014 Nobel Prize in literature, writes Jack Mendel
In what one academic called “crystal clear and resonant” prose, Modiano, a 69-year-old resident of Paris, is an acclaimed writer in France.
Modiano was born in Paris in July 1945, two months after the war ended in Europe. Having been born to a father with Jewish-Italian origins, that refused to wear the gold star, nor hand himself in for deportation in Paris. His was mother, a Belgian actress
The Swedish Academy said it gave him the eight million-kronor (£690,000) prize for evoking “the most ungraspable human destinies” and uncovering the humanity of life under Nazi occupation.
Jewishness, the Nazi occupation and loss of identity are recurrent themes in his novels, which include 1968’s ‘La Place de l’Etoile’ – later hailed in Germany as a key post-Holocaust work.
Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Modiano’s works often explore the themes of time, memory and identity.
“He is returning to the same topics again and again simply because these topics, you can’t exhaust them”.
“You can’t give a definite answer to: Why did I turn into the person I am today? What happened to me? How will I break out of the weight of time? How can I reach back into past times?”
French president Francois Hollande congratulated Modiano, the 15th French citizen to win the Nobel for literature, saying he “takes his readers right to the deep trouble of the occupation’s dark period. And he tries to understand how the events lead individuals to lose as well as find themselves”.
With the choice of Modiano, the prize returned to Europe after the academy picked Canadian writer Alice Munro in 2013 and Mo Yan of China in 2012.
The Swedish Academy often chooses writers whose works are little-known to readers outside their native country, but the sales effect of that varies. J
The awards will be presented on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.