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Onitsha Writer Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

Posted by The PM News on 2008/10/09 | Views: 1467 |

Onitsha Writer Wins Nobel Prize In Literature


Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a French writer, who lived part of his childhood in Onitsha, Nigeria, and even wrote a book named after the town, recollecting his memories of the city at the banks of the Niger, has been named the winner of this year’s Nobel Literature Prize. The announcement was made in Stockholm, Sweden, today.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a French writer, who lived part of his childhood in Onitsha, Nigeria, and even wrote a book named after the town, recollecting his memories of the city at the banks of the Niger, has been named the winner of this year’s Nobel Literature Prize. The announcement was made in Stockholm, Sweden, today.

Le Clezio was born on 13 April, 1940, in Nice, but both parents had strong family connections with the former French colony, Mauritius (conquered by the British in 1810).

At the age of eight, Le Clézio and his family moved to Nigeria, where the father had been stationed as a doctor during the Second World War. During the month-long voyage to Nigeria, he began his literary career with two books, Un long voyage and Oradi noir, which even contained a list of “forthcoming books.” He grew up with two languages, French and English. In 1950 the family returned to Nice. After completing his secondary education, he studied English at Bristol University in 1958-59 and completed his undergraduate degree in Nice (Institut d’Études Littéraires) in 1963. He took a master’s degree at the University of Aix-en-Provence in 1964 and wrote a doctoral thesis on Mexico’s early history at the University of Perpignan in 1983. He has taught at universities in Bangkok, Mexico City, Boston, Austin and Albuquerque among other places.

Le Clézio received much attention with his first novel, Le procès-verbal (1963; The Interrogation, 1964). As a young writer in the aftermath of existentialism and the nouveau roman, he was a conjurer who tried to lift words above the degenerate state of everyday speech and to restore to them the power to invoke an essential reality. His debut novel was the first in a series of descriptions of crisis, which includes the short story collection La fièvre (1965; Fever, 1966) and Le déluge (1966; The Flood, 1967), in which he points out the trouble and fear reigning in the major Western cities.

Even early on, Le Clézio stood out as an ecologically engaged author, an orientation that is accentuated with the novels Terra amata (1967; Terra Amata, 1969), Le livre des fuites (1969; The Book of Flights, 1971), La guerre (1970; War, 1973) and Les géants (1973; The Giants, 1975). His definitive breakthrough as a novelist came with Désert (1980), for which he received a prize from the French Academy. This work contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert, contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants. The main character, the Algerian guest worker Lalla, is a utopian antithesis to the ugliness and brutality of European society.

During the same period, Le Clézio published the meditative essay collections L’extase matérielle (1967), Mydriase (1973) and Haï (1971), the last of which shows influences from Indian culture. Long stays in Mexico and Central America in the period 1970 to 1974 were of decisive significance for his work, and he left the big cites in search of a new spiritual reality in the contact with the Indians. He met the Moroccan Jemia, who became his wife in 1975, the same year Voyage de l’autre côté was published, a book in which he gives an account of what he learned in Central America. Le Clézio began the translation of the major works of the Indian tradition, such as Les prophéties du Chilam Balam. Le rêve mexicain ou la pensée interrompue (1998) testifies to his fascination with Mexico’s magnificent past. Since the 90s Le Clézio and his wife share their time between Albuquerque in New Mexico, the island of Mauritius and Nice.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.