faces and traces French Novelist, J.M.G Le Clezio,Wins 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature [Archives:2008/1220/Culture]

December 29 2008

By: Eyad N. Al-Samman
For the Yemen Times

Faces & Traces is a cultural series of concise biographies of local or international famous and obscure personalities in fields such as literature, arts, culture and religion in which these individuals contribute affirmatively. It is a short journey in contemporary history, attempting to tackle numerous effective characters in human civilization.

On October 9, 2008, the Swedish Academy in Stockholm announced the French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio as the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature. A candidate from among other famous names such as the Mexican writer “Carlos Fuentes”, and the Canadian novelist “Margaret Atwood”, Le Clezio was hailed by the academy as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.”

Le Clezio mentioned in his interview with the Editor-in-Chief of the Nobel Foundation web site that he considers his home to be Mauritius, the home of his ancestors. The interviewer also asked if he enjoys putting pen to paper and whether writing comes easily? Le Clezio replied affirmatively, saying: “Literally, writing for me is like traveling. It's getting out of myself and living another life; maybe a better life.” In answering another question regarding his writings about the colonial experience, and about whether it is important for modern European culture to examine its past in this way, Le Clezio mentioned that the wealth of Europe comes from the colonies' raw materials, which played a major role in establishing the industrial world. He also explained why he writes, saying: “I feel that the writer is just a kind of a witness of what is happening. A writer is not a prophet, is not a philosopher, he's just someone who is witness to what is around him. And so writing is the best way to testify, to be a witness.”

Le Clezio was born in Nice on April 13, 1940, to an English father and a French mother; the family had roots to the Indian Ocean Island State of Mauritius. At age eight, his family moved to Nigeria and in 1950 the family returned to France. After completing his high school, he studied English at Bristol University in 1959, and completed his undergraduate degree in Nice (Institut d'Etudes Litteraires) in 1963. He earned his Master's degree in 1964, and then earned his Ph.D. in 1983. He has taught at universities in Bangkok, Mexico City, Boston, and Albuquerque.

Le Clezio wrote his first novel entitled “Le Proc's-Verbal” (1963; The Interrogation, 1964) when he was only 23. Since then he has published more than 36 books, including short stories, novels, essays, and children's books. In 1965, Le Clezio published his second literary book; a collection of short stories entitled “La Fi'vre” (Fever, 1966) which includes nine stories about insanity. “La Deluge” (1966; The Flood, 1967) is another short story collection in which Le Clezio points out the trouble and fear reigning in the major Western cities. In the late 1970s, the mood of Le Clezio's novels became less tormented as he approached themes like childhood, adolescence and traveling. His novel entitled “Desert” (1980) contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert, contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes the unwanted immigrant.

In later years the author's attraction to the dream of earthly paradise is apparent in books such as “Ourania” (2005) and “Raga: Approache du Continent Invisible” (2006) which is devoted to documenting a way of life on the Indian Ocean's islands. Le Clezio's exploration of his childhood and his own family history began in his works such as “Onitsha” (1991) and “La Quarantaine” (1995). In addition, his novel entitled “Revolutions” (2003) sums up the most important themes of his work: memory, exile, reorientation of youth, and cultural conflict.

Among the better-known of his fictional works are “La Guerre” (1970, The War), “Le Chercheur d'Or” (1985, The Prospector) and “Etoile Errante” (1992, Wandering Star). Among his children's fiction is “Lullaby” (1970) which recounts the story of the adolescent “Lullaby” and her strolls along the beaches and in the caves of the outskirts of her Mediterranean hometown. Other children's books written by Le Clezio include “Les Geants” (1973), “Voyage au Pays des Arbres” (1978) and “Villa Aurore” (1999). Le Clezio received the Nobel diploma, medal and a check for nearly $1.42 million at a formal ceremony in Stockholm last December 10th to coincide with the 112th anniversary of the death of the prize's Swedish founder, Alfred B. Nobel, in 1896.