STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Patrick Modiano, a historical novelist haunted by France’s painful experience of Nazi occupation and his own childhood wounds, won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday.
The Swedish Academy said it wanted to celebrate his “art of memory” in capturing the lives of ordinary people during German rule, which lasted from 1940 to 1944 in France. “This is someone who has written many books that speak to each other, that echo off each other, that are about memory, identity and seeking,” said Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the academy.
“They are small books… always variations on the same theme: about memory, about loss, about identity, about seeking.” “He’s a kind of Marcel Proust for our time, rewinding backwards,” Englund said.
Modiano, described by one critic as “1 metre 90 of shyness and candor”, is one of France’s most celebrated writers, and a winner of the country’s top award the Goncourt.
The 69-year-old has described the occupation of France as “the soil I grew up in”. He was born at the end of World War II, on July 30, 1945, in the Paris suburb of Boulogne into a family whose complex background set the scene for a lifelong obsession with that dark period in history.
His father, Alberto Modiano, was an Italian Jew with ties to the Gestapo who did not have to wear the yellow star and who was also close to organised crime gangs. His mother was a Flemish actress named Louisa Colpeyn.
Published when he was just 22, in 1967, his first novel “La place de l’etoile” (The Star’s Place), was a direct reference to that mark of shame inflicted on the Jews.