Patrick Modiano wins Nobel Prize in Literature 2014: French author described as 'modern Proust'

Judges praised the Jewish writer's ability to evoke 'the art of memory' in his novels and described him as a 'Marcel Proust of our time'

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The Independent Culture

French heavyweight author Patrick Modiano - described by the Swedish Academy as a 'Marcel Proust of our time' - beat favourites Haruki Murakami and Ngugi wa Thiong’o to secure the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The 69-year-old, who has written 30 books but is little known in the UK, won the accolade “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”, according to the Academy.

In announcing the 8m kronor (£636,000) prize, Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said: “He is a well-known name in France but pretty well not anywhere else.”

"You could say he's a Marcel Proust of our time."

“They are small books 130, 150 pages, which are always variations of the same theme: memory, loss, identity, seeking. Those are his important themes,” Mr Englund added.

Modiano, who was born in Paris two months after the Second World War finished in Europe, made a splash with his debut novel in 1968 La place de l’etoile.

 

Many of his books deal with the war and the effects of German occupation, while others draw on his own life. He has written books for children and also worked on the script for Lacombe Lucien in 1974 with film director Louis Malle.

In France, he has won prizes including the Grand prix du roman de l’Academie francaise and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca.

Some of Modiano's  works include Missing Person, A Trace of Malice and Honeymoon. His latest work is the novel Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier.

Modiano owes his first big break to a friendship with a friend of his mother, French writer Raymond Queneau, who was first introduced him to the Gallimard publishing house when he was in his early twenties.

Modiano, who lives in Paris, is known to shun media, and rarely accords interviews. In 2012, he won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

Literature was the fourth of this year's Nobel prizes. The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.

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