"Nomadic" writer wins Nobel prize

Thu Oct 9, 2008 1:14pm EDT
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By Niklas Pollard and Estelle Shirbon

STOCKHOLM/PARIS (Reuters) - French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, a globetrotting novelist hailed as a child of all continents, won the Nobel prize for literature on Thursday.

The Swedish Academy, which decides the winner of the coveted 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) prize, praised the 68-year-old's adventurous novels, essays and children's books.

"His works have a cosmopolitan character. Frenchman, yes, but more so a traveler, a citizen of the world, a nomad," Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Academy, told a news conference to announce the laureate.

Underlining his international credentials, Le Clezio, who describes himself as French and Mauritian, answered questions in English, French and Spanish at a Paris press conference.

"Some kind of incredulity, some kind of awe, then some kind of enjoyment and mirth," he said, describing how he felt when he heard the news. Questioned about what he would do with the prize money, he added: "I have debts. I'm going to pay them."

Engdahl stirred up resentment among some U.S. authors and critics in the run-up to this year's announcement by saying American writers were too insular and did not participate in the "big dialogue" of literature. The last American to win the literature Nobel was novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.

When asked about the issue, Le Clezio replied: "I don't think you can say American literature is any one thing, because it takes many forms."

He added that Philip Roth, a perennial favorite among bookmakers to scoop the Nobel, would be a worthy winner.   Continued...

<p>French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio speaks during a news conference in Paris October 9, 2008 after he won the 2008 Nobel prize for literature. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>