The French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, whose work reflects a seemingly insatiable restlessness and sense of wonder about other places and other cultures, won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. In its citation, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Le Clézio, 68, as the “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.”
Mr. Le Clézio’s work defies easy characterization, but in more than 40 essays, novels and children’s books, he has written of exile and self-discovery, of cultural dislocation and globalization, of the clash between modern civilization and traditional cultures. Having lived and taught in many parts of the world, he writes as fluently about North African immigrants in France, native Indians in Mexico and islanders in the Indian Ocean as he does about his own past.
Mr. Le Clézio is not well known in the United States, where few of his books are available in translation, but he is considered a major figure in European literature and has long been mentioned as a possible laureate. The awards ceremony is planned for Dec. 10 in Stockholm, and, as the winner, Mr. Le Clézio will receive 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.4 million.
… In a news conference in Stockholm after the announcement, Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize each year, described Mr. Le Clézio as a cosmopolitan author, “a traveler, a citizen of the world, a nomad.”
“He is not a particularly French writer if you look at him from a strictly cultural point of view,” Mr. Engdahl said. “He has gone through many different phases of his development as a writer and has come to include other civilizations, other modes of living than the Western, in his writing.”
Last month, Mr. Engdahl provoked a wave of indignation when he criticized American writers as “too isolated, too insular” and “too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture.” Europe, he declared, is “the center of the literary world.” No American has won the Nobel literature prize since Toni Morrison did in 1993.