"I am very moved, very touched. It's a great honour for me," he told Swedish public radio after the Swedish academy announced this year's laureate.

"I'm sincerely grateful to the Nobel academy," he said.

When asked whether he considered himself a French writer or merely an author who writes in French, Le Clezio, who was born in France to an English father and French mother and who spent parts of his childhood in Mauritius and Nigeria, said he was both.

"I don't think you can distinguish between the two. I am a mix, just like many people across Europe," he said.

The author also told Swedish radio he planned to travel to Stockholm on October 25 to accept the Stig Dagerman literary prize he won earlier this year.

'Great prose'

Horace Engdahl, the academy's permanent secretary, said Le Clezio was a writer of great diversity.

"He has gone through many different phases of his development as a writer and has come to include other civilisations, other modes of living than the Western, in his writing,'' Engdahl said.

He said Le Clezio won the prize "because he is a great prose writer and a narrator".

The author made his breakthrough as a novelist with Desert in 1980, a work that "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'', the academy said in a statement.

He also wrote the novels Terra Amata, The Book of Flights, War and The Giants.

Le Clezio was born in Nice in 1940 and at the age of eight the family moved to Nigeria, where his father had been a doctor during World War II. They returned to France in 1950.

His most recent works include 2007's Ballaciner, a work the academy called a "deeply personal essay about the history of the art of film and the importance of film'' in his life.

His books have also included several tales for children, including 1980's Lullaby and Balaabilou in 1985.

In addition to the $1.4m prize, Le Clezio will also receive a gold medal and was invited to give a lecture at the academy's headquarters in Stockholm's Old Town.

Last year's prize from the Swedish academy went to Doris Lessing of Britain.