A life of writing

Gala von Nettelbladt (Germany, AC 08-10)

“The French writer Jean Marie Gustave Le Clezio, 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,” wrote the New York Times on the 9th of October. But who is this person? Which life story lies  behind this face who smiles so gently into the press cameras?

Le Clezio was born in 1940 in Nice. In his childhood he escaped with his family from France to Mauritius, because of the French revolution terror. Later on, he lived as a nomad in many parts of the world.  He studied English at the University of Bristol, graduated from the Institut d’Études Littéraires in Nice, received a master’s degree at the University of Aix-en-Provence and wrote his doctoral thesis for the University of Perpignan on the early history of Mexico. He has taught at colleges in Mexico City, Bangkok, Albuquerque and Boston. Now he lives with his family in the US, but he still writes in French.


His life, full of travelling to different places and experiencing different cultures could be a mirror for his work. He has written about the clash between modern civilization and traditional cultures, exile and self-discovery, cultural dislocation and globalization. His work defies easy characterization in more than 40 essays, novels and children’s book.

 Le Clézio became a literary sensation with his first novel, “Le Procès-verbal” (1963), published in English as “The Interrogation.” The novel follows the meanderings of a sensitive young man arround a town, when he finds himself in a mental hospital. However, his style evolved in later books, becoming more lyrical and accessible, and taking on bolder and more sweeping themes, often with an ecological underpinning.

In its citation, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Le Clézio as the “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.”

Le Clezio is now 68 years old and  has published many books in his life and has won numerous literature prizes.  One can say that he has arrived at the peak of his career and  is still a person who knows who he is and who loves his work. Asked at some news conference if he had a message to convey, Le Clezio said: “My message will be very clear: it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.”


– United World College Student Magazine –


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