French author wins Nobel prize in literature

Patrick Modiano received the $1.1m prize for his work on Nazi occupation and its effects on France.

Jewishness, the Nazi occupation and loss of identity are recurrent themes in Modiano's novels [Reuters]

France’s Patrick Modiano has won the 2014 Nobel Prize in literature for his works on Nazi occupation and its effects on his country.

Modiano, a 69-year-old resident of Paris, is one of France’s most celebrated writers but is not well known in the English-speaking world. The Swedish Academy honoured Modiano on Thursday for his “art of memory” in capturing the lives of ordinary French people living under the Nazis during World War II.

Jewishness, the Nazi occupation and loss of identity are recurrent themes in his novels. Published when he was just 22, in 1967, his first novel “La place de l’etoile” (The Star’s Place), was a direct reference to the mark of shame inflicted on the Jews.

The book follows a narrator named Raphael on a hallucinatory journey taking in a range of historical and fictional Jewish characters. Modiano’s recreations of wartime Paris are stuffed with meticulous detail – street names, cafes, metro stations and real-life events at that time – earning him the moniker of literary archaeologist.

Modiano was born in a west Paris suburb in July 1945, two months after World War II ended in Europe, to a father with Jewish-Italian origins and a Belgian actress mother who he met during the 1940-44 occupation of Paris. 

The eldest of two boys, the young Modiano spent long, unhappy periods in boarding school. Modiano dedicated his early works to his younger brother Rudy, who died in 1957 when the author was still a boy.

In 1972, Modiano was awarded the French Academy’s Grand Prize for his novel “Ring Roads”, and the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 1978 for “Missing Person”. In 1996, he won the National Literature Grand Prize for his entire work.

He has also written children’s books and film scripts, including co-writing the 1974 movie “Lacombe, Lucien” with director Louis Malle and the 2003 movie “Bon Voyage” with director Jean-Paul Rappeneau. He was also a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012.

Five prizes have been awarded annually since 1901 by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm for outstanding contributions in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace.

Source: News Agencies