J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nobel Prize in Literature 2008

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Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio

Birthplace: Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Mr. Le Clézio and Mme. Le Clézio
Husband of <private> Le Clézio
Ex-husband of <private> Le Clézio
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Occupation: French & Mauritian novelist, short stories author, essayist and translator
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Immediate Family

    • <private> Le Clézio
    • <private> Le Clézio
    • <private> Le Clézio
    • <private> Le Clézio
    • <private> Le Clézio

About J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nobel Prize in Literature 2008

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (born 13 April 1940), usually identified as J. M. G. Le Clézio, is a French author and professor. The author of over forty works, he was awarded the 1963 Prix Renaudot for his novel Le Procès-Verbal.

Le Clézio was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature as an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization".


Le Clézio's mother was born in the French Riviera city of Nice, his father on the island of Mauritius (which was a British possession, but his father was ethnically French). Both his father's and his mother's ancestors were originally from Morbihan on the south coast of Brittany. His paternal ancestor François Alexis Le Clézio fled France in 1798 and settled with his wife and daughter on the island of Mauritius, which was then a French colony but would soon pass into British hands. The French colonists were allowed to maintain their French customs and use of the French language. Although the author Le Clézio has never lived in Mauritius for more than a few months at a time, he regards himself both as a Frenchman and a Mauritian. He has dual French and Mauritian citizenship (Mauritius gained independence in 1968) and calls Mauritius his "little fatherland".

Le Clézio himself was born in Nice, his mother's native city, during World War II when his father was serving in the British army in Nigeria. He was raised in Roquebillière, a small village near Nice until 1948 when he, his mother, and his brother boarded a ship to join his father in Nigeria. His 1991 novel, Onitsha is partly autobiographical. In a 2004 essay, he reminisced about his childhood in Nigeria and his relationship with his parents.

After studying at the University of Bristol in England from 1958 to 1959, he finished his undergraduate degree at Nice's Institut d’études littéraires. In 1964 Le Clézio earned a master's degree from the University of Provence with a thesis on Henri Michaux.

After several years spent in London and Bristol, he moved to the United States to work as a teacher. During 1967 he served in the French military in Thailand, but was quickly expelled from the country for protesting against child prostitution and sent to Mexico to finish his military obligation. From 1970 to 1974, he lived with the Embera-Wounaan tribe in Panama. He has been married since 1975 to Jémia, who is Moroccan, and has three daughters (one by a first marriage). Since the 1990s they have divided their residence between Albuquerque, Mauritius, and Nice.

In 1983 he wrote a doctoral thesis on colonial Mexican history for the University of Perpignan, on the conquest of the P'urhépecha people (formerly known as "Tarascans") who inhabit the present day state of Michoacán. It was serialized in a French magazine and published in Spanish translation in 1985.

He has taught at a number of universities around the world. A frequent visitor to South Korea, he taught French language and literature at Ewha Womans University in Seoul during the 2007 academic year.

Literary career

Le Clézio has been writing since age seven; his first work was a book about the sea. He achieved very early success at age 23 when his first novel Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) earned him the Prix Renaudot and was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt. Since then he has published more than thirty-six books, including short stories, novels, essays, two translations on the subject of Native American mythology, and several children's books.

From 1963 to 1975, Le Clézio explored themes such as insanity, language, and writing. He devoted himself to formal experimentation in the wake of such contemporaries as Georges Perec or Michel Butor. His persona was that of an innovator and a rebel, for which he was praised by Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.

During the late 1970s, Le Clézio's style changed drastically; he abandoned experimentation, and the mood of his novels became less tormented as he used themes like childhood, adolescence, and traveling, which attracted a broader, more popular audience. In 1980, Le Clézio was the first winner of the newly created Grand Prix Paul Morand, awarded by the Académie Française, for his novel, Désert. In 1994, a survey conducted by the French literary magazine Lire showed that 13 percent of the readers considered him to be the greatest living French language writer.

Nobel Prize

Horace Engdahl announces Le Clézio winning the Nobel Prize for Literature on 9 October 2008

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2008 went to Le Clézio for works characterized by the Swedish Academy as being "poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy" and for being focused on the environment, especially the desert. The Swedish Academy, in announcing the award, called Le Clézio an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.". Le Clézio used his Nobel prize acceptance lecture to attack the subject of information poverty. The title of his lecture was Dans la forêt des paradoxes (in the forest of paradoxes).

Gao Xingjian, a Chinese émigré, was the last French citizen to receive the prize (for 2000); Le Clézio was the first French language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature since Claude Simon for 1985, and the fourteenth since Sully Prudhomme, laureate of the first prize of 1901.


All works are written and published in French. If the work has been translated into English, the English title is given in parenthesis. See also: J. M. G. Le Clézio bibliography


   Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation)
   Le Jour où Beaumont fit connaissance avec sa douleur
   Le Livre des fuites (The Book of Flights: An Adventure Story)
   Le déluge (The Flood)
   Terra amata (Terra amata)
   La Guerre (War)
   Voyages de l'autre côté
   Désert (Desert)
   Le Chercheur d'or (The prospector)
   Étoile errante (Wandering Star : a Novel)
   Onitsha (Onitsha)
   La Quarantaine
   Poisson d'or
   Hasard suivi de Angoli Mala
   Fantômes dans la rue
   Ritournelle de la faim


   Le Rêve mexicain ou la pensée interrompue (The Mexican Dream, Or, The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations)
   Conversations avec J.M.G. Le Clézio
   Vers les icebergs (Essai sur Henri Michaux)
   L'Inconnu sur la Terre
   Trois Villes saintes
   Dans la maison d'Edith
   Sur Lautréamont
   Diego et Frida
   Le Llano en flammes
   L'Extase matérielle
   Une lettre de J.M.G. Le Clezio
   La liberté pour Rêver (Freedom to Dream)
   La liberté pour parler (Freedom to Speak)
   Sur la lecture comme le vrai voyage (On reading as true travel)

Short stories

   La Fièvre (Fever)
   Mondo et autres histoires (Mondo and other stories)
   La ronde et autres faits divers (The Round & Other Cold Hard Facts )
   Printemps et autres saisons
   Awaité Pawana (Pawana)
   La Fête chantée et autres essais de thème amérindien
   Cœur brûle et autres romances
   Tabataba suivi de pawana

Travel Diaries

   Voyage à Rodrigues
   Gens des nuages
   Raga. Approche du continent invisible

Collections Translated by the Author into French.

   Les Prophéties du Chilam Balam
   Relation de Michoacan

Books for Children

   Celui qui n'avait jamais vu la mer (The Boy Who Had Never Seen the Sea)
   Les Géants (The Giants)
   Voyage au pays des arbres
   Villa Aurore ; suivi de, Orlamonde
   Villa Aurore
   L'enfant de sous le pont
   La Grande Vie suivi de Peuple du ciel
   Peuple du ciel, suivi de 'Les Bergers

Books written by other authors with preface written by Le Clézio

   The French language preface to Juan Rulfo's
   short story collection "Le Llano en flammes"

Awards and honours


  • 1963 prix Théophraste-Renaudot Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation)
  • 1972 prix littéraire Valery-Larbaud For his complete works
  • 1980 grand prix de littérature Paul-Morand,

awarded by the Académie française

  • 1997 Mécénat des prix Jean Giono Poisson d'or
  • 1998 prix Prince-de-Monaco For his complete works and upon publication of Poisson d'or
  • 2008 Stig Dagermanpriset for his complete works and upon publication of Swedish translation of a travelogue Raga. Approche du continent invisible
  • 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature


  • He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur on 25 October 1991 and was promoted to Officier (Officer) in 2009
  • In 1996, he was made Officier (Officer) of the Ordre national du Mérite.
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J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nobel Prize in Literature 2008's Timeline

April 13, 1940
Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France