Modiano, writer of memory and guilt under Nazi occupation, wins Nobel literature prize

Thu Oct 9, 2014 12:12pm EDT
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By Niklas Pollard and Alistair Scrutton

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - French writer Patrick Modiano has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature for works that made him "a Marcel Proust of our time" with tales often set during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War Two, the Swedish Academy said on Thursday.

Relatively unknown outside of France and a media recluse, Modiano's works have centered on memory, oblivion, identity and guilt. He has written novels, children's books and film scripts.

"You could say he's a Marcel Proust of our time," Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told reporters.

The academy said the award of 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) was "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation".

His first novel 'La Place de l'Etoile', published in 1968, remains probably his best known book and touched on many themes that he would return to throughout his career, including the fate of the Jews under the Nazis.

Little of his writing is available in English but his roughly 40 works include "A Trace of Malice", "Missing Person," and "Honeymoon". His latest work is the novel "Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier".

Modiano, reacting to the award, said he felt like he had been writing versions of the same book for many years.

"What I am keen to see are the reasons why they chose me ... One can never really be one's own reader," he told a news conference in Paris. "Even more so because I have the impression of writing the same book for 45 years."   Continued...

French writer Patrick Modiano in an undated photo.     REUTERS/Catherine Helie/Gallimard